10 Things You Should Never (ever?) Say To Your Kids


A recent magazine article from Parents Magazine, and an accompanying meme, has gone viral. The entire premise is an “expert” telling you why the things we all say to our kids is wrong.

Like we need another “expert” who doesn’t actually know us telling us how to raise our children. It’s sad that entire industries exist to do nothing but guilt parents.

Parents, I am here to tell you that YOU ARE OKAY! (Oh wait, no you’re not, that’s something you’re not supposed to say….)

First, take a look at this meme created from the article and then we’ll discuss each one.

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1. Great job.
I’ve seen this a lot lately, mostly in the form of memes on social media (you know, the land where people post things they don’t understand or wouldn’t actually say in public)

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The “expert” (and random Facebook users) claim that by telling your kid they did a good job frequently you’re teaching them to become dependent on praise and to expect praise for mediocre work.

Bull hockey.

I believe that praising your child is key to the development of their self-esteem and confidence. Sure, you may not think that your son designing a microwave on Minecraft is worthy of praise but by dismissing him you’re telling your child that the things that are important to him don’t matter to you.

Maybe your child didn’t do anything productive for his soccer team, but maybe in his mind he’s thinking about how hard he tried but didn’t succeed. When you refuse to express your happiness with his performance you’re telling him that winning is more important than effort.

I don’t believe in praise for intentionally sloppy work, but if your child really tried they deserve to know they did a good job!

2. Practice makes perfect

Adults know that sometimes, no matter how hard you practice, you aren’t going to excel at something. I love singing, and I practice a lot (ask my kids!), but I will never, ever be good at it.

Perhaps, instead of changing what we say we should change our child’s idea of perfection. Perfection can mean consistently trying and putting forth their best effort. Perfection can mean doing something to enjoy it, not to master it. Perfection can mean performing commensurate with their ability with the goal of expanding their ability.

3. You’re okay

The “experts” say that when you tell a child they are okay, especially after a minor injury, you are dismissing their feelings.

First off…did they even read what they wrote for #1 up there?? Because they’re kinda the same thing.

It absolutely is okay to say “you’re okay!” when your child falls or feels slighted. Why? Because they are okay!! No, don’t ignore their boo boo and certainly help them explore their feelings, but also reassure them that they are okay and will survive this!

4. Hurry up

I think there is value in letting your child, especially an older child, know that your time is as important as his, and after saying “let’s hurry” 5 times a harsh “hurry up” is perfectly acceptable. Sometimes my kids, especially the one who is lucky enough to have ADHD, need a not-so-gentle reminder. The real focus, however, should be in preparing yourself as much as possible BEFORE you’re late.

5. I’m on a diet

I actually agree with this one. I don’t think anyone should diet. We should concentrate on making healthy changes to our habits so we feel better, not changing who we are or what we look like.

6. We can’t afford that

I disagree completely with this one, but I want to explain.

You need to make sure your children feel secure. No parent wants their child to take on adult problems, like making sure you have enough food or can pay the power bill. You don’t want your children to always feel poor because that could lead to binge spending when they do have money, or guilt over buying things they need. That, however, isn’t where the “experts” are going with this.

The “experts” think that saying this phrase will teach your children that they cannot trust you, because while you say no to a new toy for them you went out and bought a new refrigerator. I don’t buy that.

Especially with older kids, it’s alright to let them know your budgetary limits when it comes to non-necessities. This is doubly important in times of financial crisis, like the time my husband was unexpectedly fired when the company he worked for was sold without notice.

I think the avoidance of saying this phrase is an emotional one on the part of the parents. Parents today are taught from pregnancy to provide everything necessary to ensure their child a life free from conflict and strife. Just look at a parenting magazine and you’ll see what I mean. $100 headphones that fit on your stomach so your baby is exposed to Mozart. $1000 reading programs for babies. $200 designer dolls. $300 car seats and $600 strollers. $10,000 a year private preparatory preschool academies. If you love your children you will buy them these things.

No.

Teach your children the difference between needs and wants.
Teach your child how to earn money, save money, and spend wisely.
Teach your child how to prioritize their spending.
Teach your child the value of delayed gratification.
Teach your children to recognize the difference between emotional spending and practical spending.
Teach your child compromise.
Teach your child that sometimes you do have to make hard decisions, and the right decision is sometimes the hard decision.
Teach your child that not having money isn’t a crime, it’s a problem that needs a solution.
Teach your child how to solve that solution in a legal and moral way.

7. Don’t talk to strangers

I don’t really disagree with the reasoning behind this one, as long as we balance this with a “there are more good people than bad people in this world, let me teach you how to determine the difference.” And if, goodness forbid, something bad happens…teach your child that no matter the circumstance, the victim is never, ever at fault. Ever.

8. Be careful

The “expert” says that by calling out to your child to be careful they will lose concentration, fall off the monkey bars, break their arm, and live a life of desperation on the streets.

Ok, so maybe not the living on the streets part…but seriously??

Yes, I agree that yelling out to your child to be careful does more to assuage your anxiety than help your child, but for goodness sakes if your child falls and breaks their arm you don’t need the added guilt and anxiety because you told them to be careful. Sheesh.

What is wrong with being careful, anyhow? We want our children to become self-aware, and to be aware of their surroundings, and to learn how to deal with negative emotions. There is not a thing wrong with being careful about anything. Teach your child how to assess a situation and how to proceed with caution, in everything from climbing the monkey bars as a child to cruising the bars as an adult.

9. No dessert before dinner

Unless you have a child with SPD issues who deals with constipation so painful that you have rushed them to the ER thinking their appendix had burst. Which I have done. More than once.

Ok, so the actual article just says to change your words to take the emphasis off dessert, and I guess that isn’t bad.

10. Let me help

There are times when letting a child struggle is ok, my issue here is more with the “never say this” aspect. When it comes to the really big stuff our kids need to know that we will step in, even if they don’t ask for help. It is our job to teach them how to deal with the big emotions, not to leave them floundering.

So, do you agree with me, the article, or both? Leave a (nice!) comment and let’s discuss!

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3 thoughts on “10 Things You Should Never (ever?) Say To Your Kids

  • Miriam Melodie Stayer Peromsik

    I think “do you need/want some help?” might be more appropriate than “let me help,” but in general, your head is screwed on better than those so-called experts.

    And it is completely possible to not be able to afford a toy but then turn around and buy a fridge! Because affording something isn’t only about having the physical money, it’s about priorities. And a refrigerator is more of a need than a want. As long as the old one broke… If it’s a random upgrade, then maybe you were lying about not being able to afford the toy. Children don’t always need to know the whole story, but they deserve the truth, as much of it as you are willing and able to share. Don’t lie to your kids.

    (Pretty much, I’m agreeing with you.)

  • Gail

    I am not a Mom but I am an Aunt and I found these things helpful.

    The “be careful” advice works on adults too. I have said it and distracted others and have heard it and been distracted. Sometimes you can’t afford to be distracted. Sometimes I just need to be quiet.

    I agree with what you wrote and wish my parents had read this when I was a kid. Especially #6.

    Thanks. Good article.

  • Michelle Snow

    I agree with you, especially on the diet one. Teach them to eat healthy but not to obsess over calories and carbs. Don’t instill an eating disorder in your child they don’t need. Also, #6 – kids need to be aware that some families just can’t afford all the bells & whistles. Teach them to appreciate what they have instead of going into debt every time they want a new toy/etc.