Three phrases you shouldn’t say to your little one (and what to say instead)

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Let’s face it, we parents are far from perfect and often dish out some rather dubious advice to our children.

But here are three phrases well-meaning parents should AVOID saying at all costs and what you can say instead.

boy holding her mother's legs

So your child finally got that amazing gadget or toy they’ve always wanted after saving up for months. And then a few hours later it breaks like the piece of junk you knew it was.

It’s so tempting to say ‘I told you it was rubbish’ or ‘see I knew it wouldn’t last more than a day’.

But founder of Positive Parenting Solutions Amy McCready says parents should think twice before offering well-intended words in an attempt to comfort their kids.

She suggests before we say the first thing that comes to our mind we should look for a different, less judgmental approach to the situation.

Three unhelpful things well meaning parents say

1. Any sentence beginning with “See…”

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No one likes a know-it-all smarty pants and as adults being told ‘I told you so’ is one of the most irritating things ever.

And it’s no different for our kids. When we attempt to reinforce a point or teach a lesson it’s best to avoid the word ‘see’ because it sounds like a lecture.

We’re telling them that if they just listened to us their life would be much easier. As soon as this happens a child’s defences go up.

McCready says this is when a power struggle will probably result.

What you can do instead: Talk about the situation and see if they can tell you why what they did wasn’t a good idea. Often the best teacher is the experience itself, not a judgmental parent.

2. “Don’t worry” or “Don’t cry.”

Sad girl hugging mother tightly

As a child growing up the worst thing someone could say to me, especially my siblings was ‘don’t cry’.

Sure as parents we often say it because we truly do want our kids to feel better – but instead it can make your child feel like you see those feelings as unimportant.

Additionally, telling them it’s silly to believe in the boogie man or be afraid of the dark won’t automatically stop them from feeling fearful.

“The truth is, we’re all sad or worried sometimes, and we need to help our children learn to work with these feelings rather than ignore them,” McCready says.

What you can do instead: Acknowledge your child’s feelings and then find ways to deal with those feelings.

Ask questions like, ‘What are some things you can do to feel less afraid?’ or ‘what are some things that you can do to feel less worried?

“Not only does this show your child that her feelings are valid and important, it shows her that she can control how those feelings affect her,” she says.

3. “Don’t be shy.”

boys first day of school

Most of us have said this to our children before and how many times has it actually made our child magically come out of their shell and talk non-stop to someone they hardly know? NEVER.

It’s quite common for our normally talkative children to go silent when asked a simple question by one of our friends or acquaintances. The first thing we say is ‘don’t be shy.’

McCready says while we’re trying to encourage politeness, we’re forgetting that kids have different personalities and aren’t all equally outgoing.

“When we call our kids shy they have a greater tendency to act shy,” she says.

What you can do instead: Instead of putting them on the spot when you run into a friend, try working together ahead of time on how to deal with meeting and greeting new people.

Role play situations, arrive to events early to allow your child to get acclimated – and most importantly – don’t pressure your child into talking if he doesn’t want to.

“When we know more about how our children interpret our words, we can truly be as helpful as we’re intending to be,” McCready says.

For more parenting articles and tips visit here.

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