By: Laura Laing
Say what you mean and mean what you say â easier said than done, thatâs for sure. When it comes to our kids, our words donât always have the intended effect, even with the best intentions.
In recent years, some of the most common parental pronouncements have come under scrutiny from experts. Hereâs a sample of things that you should consider banning from your vernacular.
What the heck is wrong with the word no? To be honest, absolutely nothingâunless itâs used for everything. Save the big guns for difficult situations, like when your tot is in mortal danger. Besides, âitâs far more effective to be specific and positive,â says Katherine Kersey, director of Old Dominion Universityâs Child Development Center. Instead of barking, âNo!â when your four year old stands up in his chair at the dinner table, try saying, âPlease sit on your bottom.â
2. âWait until your father (or mother) gets home.â
This is one of those things you may think throughout the course of a day, but is rather best left unsaid. To fully reap the benefits of having another grown up in the family, parents should be like synchronized diversâstepping off the high platform together. That means not leaving the dirty work for your partner. Even if you do hand Junior over as soon as Daddy or Mommy walks through the door, itâs best to make the big parenting decisions together. Additionally, you donât want to feel responsible for instilling a sense of fear in your child for one parent or the other. This could be a detrimental mistake that has the potential to create an awkward relationship as your child grows older.
3. âYouâre the greatest!â
Of course your child is the best thing since DVR, but too much unspecific praise can go to our kidsâ heads. Worse, these comments can create pressure for perfection. Experts advise us to be specific and child-centered. Try the following, âYou must be very proud of that drawing. I like how you drew a big smile on the sun.â Statements like these allow for greater self-esteem, say Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, authors of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk.
4. âWeâll see.â
Youâve got 20 phone calls to make, bills to pay, and a load of laundry to fold, but it is now that your child wants to know if she can have a friend over for a sleepover. âWeâll seeâ is a pause button for those times when you just canât handle another decision. But this age-old ploy may very well say to your child that youâre too busy or distracted for her. This in turn provokes your child to continue to ask the same question until you are so annoyed with the constant nagging that you make a rash decision. Instead, ask her to check in with you later. Or, if youâre just delaying the inevitable no, bite the bullet and give it to her straight.
5. âGive Aunt Millie a kiss!â
Would you snuggle up to someone just because you were told to? Kids are no different, and for a variety of reasons itâs a good idea to respect their sense of personal space. Forcing your child to hug, kiss, or show affection to someone sends the message that he doesnât have control. Kids need to be certain that they can say no to unwanted physical attention, starting at a young age, so that as they develop and grow they will know how to handle situations that they may be placed in.
6. âCalm down.â
If your child is hyperventilating or wonât sit still for emergency medical treatment, this phrase may not be so bad. But for ordinary emotionsâeven those expressed in ways that would rival a soap starâs performanceââcalm downâ may translate to: âYour feelings donât matter.â Swallow your frustration with your childâs theatrics and simply say, âWow, youâre mad/sad/frustrated, letâs work through this.â You never want to let your child feel as though the expression of emotion is a bad thing, because the alternative â a child that shows little to no emotion â is not easy to handle, either.
7. âWhen Iâm right, Iâm right, and when Iâm wrong, Iâm still right.â
It is okay for your kids to know that youâre not perfect -- really! In fact, they already know it. Experts agree that itâs better for parents to fess up to mistakes than to pull rank. âWhen you say, âI shouldn't have done that,â your child will have a rock-solid sense that her feelings matter to the people who are most important in her life,â writes John Gottman, Ph.D., author of Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child. Additionally, you donât want to encourage your children to always be on a quest to be right, because as the phrase goes, no one is perfect.
8. âDonât say that.â
My mother was mortified when my sister once pointed at a frizzy-haired woman at the grocery store and shouted with wide-eyed wonder, âLook at the witch!â Looking back I can say that my sister wasnât being rude; she was simply being a kid. Whether the difference is race, ethnicity, orientation, physical abilities, or appearance, these experiences are perfect opportunities to delve into kidsâ thoughts about diversity, at which point you should share your own. Donât shut down the conversation, but rather welcome the open dialogue. As for the inappropriate comments, that is something that you need to discuss with your child, however, do not silence them, as silence taught to a child can breed into an emotional and mental issue later in life, says Tammy Gold, a parenting coach.
9. âLet me help you.â
It can be heartbreaking to watch a frustrated child. But sometimes it doesnât pay to don the superhero cape. The more challenges children overcome, the prouder theyâll feel, says Dr. Stanley I. Greenspan, author of Great Kids. You are setting your child up for failure when you mollycoddle them and make problems magically go away. The only way to overcome challenge is to face it head on.
10. âDonât make me turn this car around!â
Thereâs not much worse than a car ride with an unruly child (or two or three). But this well-worn threat is just thatâa threat. When youâve gotten to this point, youâve already lost control, even from the driverâs seat. If you want to head home, just do it, but donât give your children the authority to make that decision for you.