11 Things Parents Should Never Say to Their Kids

Parenting is a demanding job in and of itself, but having your children at home 24 hours a day, seven days a week when schools and daycares are closed may add to the burden. Unfortunately, adding a layer of stress to an already stressful situation can lead to unintended consequences, such as being harsh with your children or saying things you don’t mean. Read on for the things parents shouldn’t say to their children if you want to keep your connection with them on solid ground.

  1. “You’re useless” or “You’re a failure”

It’s shocking how many parents, in a moment of rage, say this to their children.

This is the kind of statement that may profoundly traumatize youngsters and cause them to doubt their own worth as human beings.

2. “You’re such a terrible boy/girl!”

Children have an odd way of becoming the person that their parents and others closest to them imagine them to be.

Instead, parents may say something like this when their child misbehaves: “This is so unlike you.” You’re typically such a thoughtful and responsible young man. You’ll still get in trouble for disobeying, but it’s not like you to do anything like this.”

3. “Stop Being Shy”

Blaming a child for being shy and forcing them to say hello to people they don’t like is one of the easiest ways to push them into an anxiety condition. When a parent tells their child to embrace, shake hands, or kiss, it’s effectively stating, “Your body and boundaries are useless, and anybody with greater power than you may override them.” Perhaps it isn’t the ideal message for timid youngsters, given the current cultural moment of #metoo.

4. “I’m disappointed in you”

Your sentiments, including disappointment, are not the fault of your children. It will just make them feel awful and guilty if you tell them.

5. “Why Can’t You Be More Like Your Sister”

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Sibling rivalry may be quite harmful. In fact, family violence is more likely to occur between siblings than between parents and children. Additional competitive pressure from parents is the last thing a tight relationship needs.

6. “Don’t argue with me”

When parents say this to their children during a fight, it makes them increasingly angry and less willing to obey or compromise.

Parents should gently argue with their children and express their point of view. It’s critical that parents maintain their composure!

7. “I know what’s best for you”

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As a parent, you may believe that you truly know what is best for your children, but saying this statement will not persuade them that you are correct.

Instead, parents should do all possible to help their children assume full responsibility for their decisions and lives.

8. “No dessert until you’ve finished dinner.”

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You don’t want your children to waste food, of course. However, enforcing the “clean plate club” norm at home might have significant consequences for your child’s autonomy and eating habits.

“You’re already having difficulty getting your child to eat their food,” Sarah Rees, a certified play therapist, adds, “and this actually increases your child’s perceived threat and creates an increased power differential.”

9. “Your friends don’t do that.”

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You can’t encourage your kids to do things by comparing them to their classmates at home if you want them to escape peer pressure at school.

10. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

Making your children second-guess their own decisions, particularly with threatening words, can have significant long-term effects.

11. “You should have done better.”

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Sure, your child could have received an A instead of a B+, but telling them their efforts weren’t good enough can make them feel awful about themselves—and about who they are as individuals.

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