15 Things You Should Never Say To Your Child

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Raising children doesn’t come with a handbook. Parents make mistakes, which is totally normal. One of the toughest parts of parenting is knowing how to communicate with kids. Sometimes, what you say might unintentionally confuse them. While kids may forget most of what they hear, your words as a parent can have a lasting impact. Here are 15 things you should never say to your child.

“You did well, but you could do better.”

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Experts suggest avoiding compliments followed by “but” because it can take away from the compliment itself. It’s very important to celebrate small victories with kids to keep them motivated. When you use ‘but,’ it can make them feel like they haven’t quite pleased you enough, which isn’t so great. Instead, try saying something like: ‘You did awesome, and I’m super proud of you. I bet you’ll keep getting even better!’

“Wait until your father/mother gets home.”

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Have you ever heard the phrase “Wait until your father/mother gets home”? It’s common, but here’s the thing: both parents should be seen as equals, not one as the disciplinarian or threat. It’s very crucial to stick together as a team. For instance, try saying, “You’re grounded for one week because you said a bad word,” right when the issue happens. This way, kids learn accountability for their actions immediately.

“Stop crying, you’ll be fine.”

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When you tell children to stop crying, it can make them feel like showing emotions is wrong. Even though it can be tough for parents, criticizing kids for something natural like crying doesn’t help—it can make them feel like their feelings don’t matter. Instead, try asking gently, “What’s wrong? Why are you so upset?” This approach encourages your child to talk about problems without hesitating.

“I will never forgive you.”

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We’ve all been there—reacting fast when a child messes up big time. But words like that can really sting a kid. They might start thinking their mistake will stick with them forever. Instead, try saying, “You messed up, but we can figure this out and move on.” It’s natural to blurt out things when you’re upset. So, take a moment to breathe and calm down before you talk. 

“Great job!/You’re so smart!”

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When praising your child, it’s more effective to focus on how they accomplished something rather than repeatedly saying “Great job” or similar phrases. For instance, instead of generic praise like “You’re amazing,” try saying, “You got all As—you must have worked super hard.” This kind of feedback encourages children to think about their efforts and work towards achieving their goals.

“Don’t worry, everything will be OK.”

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If your kids are worried about something sad they saw on the news or experienced with people they know, don’t ignore their feelings — talk about it openly. It’s important to let them know how you’ll keep them safe. For instance, you could say, “Mom and Dad are always close by, and we’ll make a plan together in case something unexpected happens.”

“I do everything for you.”

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While it’s true parents do a lot for their children, always emphasizing it might make kids feel like they’re a bother instead of loved. “I do everything for you” can come across as harsh, even if it’s meant to teach discipline. Instead, try something like, “We do things for you because we love you, so it would mean a lot if you could do this for me.” 

“Don’t eat that, or else you’ll get fat.”

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When kids get too hung up on their bodies, they might start sizing up others based on what they eat. Body image is super personal and delicate, and introducing these worries early on can do harm. Instead, try a positive spin like, ‘I think it’s better to skip that because it’s not the healthiest choice.’ That way, you’re all about promoting good habits without making body image a big deal.

“Let me help.”

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When your child is having trouble with something (like a puzzle game), it’s normal to want to help right away. But it’s important not to do that. If you step in too quickly, your child can rely on others for solutions instead of figuring things out themselves. Instead, ask questions to guide them: “Should the big piece go on the bottom of the little one? Why do you think so? Let’s do this together.”

“Stop being such a baby.”

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Telling a child “Stop being such a baby” when they’re upset isn’t helpful at all. It might make them think their feelings aren’t important and could stop them from opening up to you. Children should feel comfortable expressing their emotions openly. As parents—you need to figure out why your child is upset and how you can support them and make things better.

“Thinking about sex is bad at your age.”

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Parents often wonder when their kids will ask that inevitable question: Where do babies come from? It’s tempting to delay the conversation with a promise to discuss it later, but it’s crucial to tackle their curiosity head-on. Children are naturally curious about sex, and being prepared to have an open and age-appropriate conversation is not just important—it’s essential for their understanding.

“That’s only for boys/girls.”

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Telling boys and girls what they can and can’t do because of their gender sends the message that boys should act one way and girls another. This can make children feel like they’re wrong if they don’t fit these roles. And it also limits kids and supports harmful ideas about how they should behave. Instead, experts recommend letting children explore activities freely without thinking about their gender.

“We can’t afford that.”

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When your child really wants that shiny new toy, it’s easy to fall back on a quick response. But saying no because “we can’t afford it” might make them worry about money. Instead, try explaining, “We’re saving our money for more important things.” If they keep asking, it’s a good opportunity to chat about budgeting and making smart financial choices together.

“Don’t talk to strangers.”

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Young children might not see someone they don’t know as a stranger, especially if the person seems nice. Plus, kids could misunderstand and refuse help from police officers or firefighters they haven’t met. Instead of just warning about strangers, talk about situations like, “What if a stranger offers you candy and a ride home?” This helps kids think about how to stay safe in different situations.

“You’d better do what I say or else.”

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Making kids do things out of fear can sound scary and usually doesn’t get the best response. It’s way more effective to explain why you’re asking them to do something so they understand and feel more eager to pitch in. Instead of being too tough, try saying something like, “Could you do this because of that?” The old-school “my way or the highway” approach has been around forever—but there are smarter ways to deal with kids.