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What Not to Say to Kids

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I love kids. They’re so uninhibited, curious and silly. But they are also a tad fragile. So, here are some comments from parents and parenting experts about why you shouldn’t say these five things to kids. 

I don’t have children yet, but even now when I am out and about every now and again I hear parents say some of these to their kids. I never thought anything about it, and maybe a lot of parents don’t, but here are five things you shouldn’t say to your children.

1. “I Don’t Care” – Kids love sharing details. From playground antics, to conversations with friends. Sometimes Mom and Dad don’t want to hear the specifics of the booger farm on the slide, but be careful about saying “I don’t care” because that way you’re cutting off communication and telling them that something that is important to them isn’t important to you.

2. “Act Your Age” – Your child may be seven years old but you think that she’s acting like she’s three and and you say so. Therapist, parenting coach and author of the book, The Calm Parent: AM & PM, Debbie Pincus says that this reaction is common, but it’s less about your child’s behavior and more about Mom and Dad expressing their frustration with their son or daughter. The child may just in fact be acting their age.

3. “Say You’re Sorry” - Say your child took a toy from another child and makes them cry. Your gut reaction is to tell the other child that they’re sorry because you want to teach them to be compassionate. That’s a wonderful thing to teach, but Bill Corbett who is a parenting educator, author producer and host of the show Creating Cooperative Kids says that while you may be trying to teach compassion, “it doesn’t teach the child social skills” and he adds that kids don’t understand why they have to apologize.

4. “Don’t You Get it?” – You’re trying to teach your child how to throw and catch a ball. You’ve done this over and over and over again and they aren’t grasping it. Same goes with homework. If it’s not clicking, you may want to ask “don’t you get it?” Learning specialist and author Jill Lauren says that the comment can be degrading. If the child got it, they would be more likely to show how well they got it and would want to please their parent as much as they could to show how smart they are. When you ask “don’t you get it?” you may as well be saying “what’s wrong with you?” Obviously that’s not your intention to send that message, but that’s what the child hears.

5. “I’m Going to Leave Without You” - If your child doesn’t want to leave the park or doesn’t want to leave the house and you’re going to be late for an appointment, this may be the threat that you use to get your child moving and out the door, but doctor and mother of four boys Deborah Gilboa says that parental abandonment fears are very real. So, what happens when the threat of leaving them at home doesn’t work? Deborah says that parents want their children to believe what they say and if you want your kid to believe you, you shouldn’t say something that’s false, otherwise your kids are going to know that your threats are empty.

I think Pincus put it best when she said that “Words hurt and they can’t be taken back, so be careful.”

Now, I may not have heard all of these when I was younger, but the one phrase my mom would use to stop me in my tracks was, (and say it with me here) “Wait until your father comes home!”

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