There are some things you clearly shouldn’t say to your child. “Wait till your father gets home!” or “If only you were more like your sister!” there are a few of them. But there are also things that are less clear and should be avoided. We’ll give you 10 of them.
1. “Well done!”
Research has shown that you should not throw too many rewarding words for small victories. This makes your child dependent on your reward in words, rather than their own intrinsic motivation. Therefore, save this reward for when your child has really earned it.
Also, be specific when speaking to your child in a rewarding way. For example, do not say “Well played!” when your child scores a goal in soccer, but say: “Nice goal! You worked well with your team.”
2. “Exercise breeds art.”
It’s true that the more time your child spends practicing a skill, the better he gets at it. However, it is not a good idea to use this pronunciation. It puts too much pressure on your child to perform and be the best. You’re actually saying that when he makes mistakes, it’s always his own fault, because he hasn’t practiced hard enough.
Encourage your child to work hard so he can get better at what he does and teach him that he can be proud of his progress.
3. “It’s okay!”
When your child falls off his bike and scrapes his knee, it might be tempting to reassure him with the words “It’s okay!”. But this can be counterproductive for children. Your child cries because there is something wrong. He’s in pain.
Therefore, try to comfort him by acknowledging his feelings. For example, you could say, “That was a scary fall.” Then you can give him a kiss on it and ask him if he wants a pee-pee. That’s how your child feels understood.
4. “Hurry up!”
It can be very frustrating when you are already late and your child, for example, wants to tie his own laces when he can’t do it properly. However tempting it may be to encourage him to hurry up, don’t do this. It only creates extra stress for your child.
You better say, “Let’s hurry.” That’s how you let it be known you’re on the same side. You can also make a game out of it. “You bet I’ll get my pants on faster than you?!” This makes hurrying something fun.
5. “I’m on a diet.”
Are you losing weight? Keep this to yourself. If your child sees you on the scales every day and hears you talking about how fat you think you are, this can lead to an unhealthy body image.
In this case, it is better to say that you are eating healthily because it makes you feel better. You can do the same when it comes to sports. “It’s such nice weather! I’m going for a walk.”
6. “We can’t afford that.”
It’s an easy answer when your child begs you again for the latest toy. Yet this is not a convenient utterance. It gives your child the idea that you’re not well under control. This can be very frightening for small children. Maybe they should get out of their house!
Instead of saying you can’t pay for something, you can say, “We’re not going to buy it because we’re saving for more important things.” When your child keeps on rambling, you have a perfect reason to teach him about budget and the value of money.
7. “Don’t talk to strangers.”
This is a difficult concept for young children. Even if they don’t know someone, they may not see this person as a ‘stranger’. They may also refuse help from e.g. the police at an important moment, because they see them as a stranger.
Instead of warning your child about strangers you can present them with scenarios (“What would you do if a man you don’t know offered you candy and a lift home?”). Let him explain what he would do and then lead him to the right way to deal with it.
8. “Be careful.”
Telling your child to be careful while he’s already hanging on the horizontal bar increases the chance of things going wrong. It distracts your child, making him fall faster.
If you do worry, stand quietly near your child so that you can take care of him if he does fall.
9. “You won’t get dessert until you’ve emptied your plate!”
This statement increases the value of the dessert in your child’s head and reduces the enjoyment he gets from dinner.
You’d better change it: “First we eat our supper and then we eat dessert.” This has a much more positive impact on your child because it equates dinner in his head with dessert.
10. “Leave me alone.”
If your child is struggling to build a blocking tower, it is tempting to want to help him. You’ll soon take over from him. However, this can undermine the learning of independence. He will then ask others to do things for him first, instead of trying first.
You’d better ask him guiding questions like, “Do you think the small block or the big block should be at the bottom? Why do you think that?” In this way he builds the tower himself and in the future he has the self-confidence to try things out for himself first.