15 Things You Should Never Say to Your Child

When we are stressed or unhappy with the behaviour of our children, we tend to make some negative remarks out of emotions. Many parents mean no harm with the statements, but the repercussion is that the children become emotionally abused and are likely to develop low self-esteem if this is experienced frequently; subsequently, the children might also find it difficult to have open conversations with their parents.  

The following are fifteen things you should never say to your child – no matter how angry you are, and no matter the situation.

Things You Should Never Say to Your Child
Black girl with sadness emotion. Source: Freepik

Things You Should Never Say to Your Child

#1. I am disappointed in you!

Topping this list is “I am disappointed in you!” No doubt, when your child does something you don’t like, you can be infuriated and want to say the remark, so as to express your discontent. Nonetheless, the remark not only makes your child feel terrible when said but it can also make the child believe he or she is a disappointment to the family. 

Instead of saying you are disappointed in your child, it is better to say: “I’m not happy with what you did. Please ensure you do not repeat it in future.”

#2. You can do better

Parents usually say this when complimenting their children. They would say something like, “You did well but you can do better.” What is wrong with this compliment is that, first of all, the “but” in the statement weakens the compliment; secondly, finishing the compliment with “…you can do better” adds insult to the injury and makes the child feel his or her effort isn’t really appreciated. 

Next time you want to compliment your child for a job well done, say: “You did well and I am proud of you. I bet you’re going to keep getting better and better!”

#3. Stop crying like a baby

The third remark on this list of things you should never say to your child is “Stop crying like a baby.” It is important that, as a parent, you understand that crying is an emotion, and sometimes, it is uncontrollable. Therefore, asking your child to stop crying doesn’t guarantee that he or she will stop. What you should do is query the reason for the emotion and find a way to pacify the child. 

Instead of declaring that the child should stop crying, you can ask questions such as, “What’s the matter? Why are you crying?” And don’t ask in a hostile manner. The questions would make the child communicate what the problem is, and you can find a way to resolve the problem. 

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#4. How many times do you want me to tell you this?

At times, parents paraphrase this rhetorical question as “Do I have to tell you this 100 times?” Asking a child this kind of question is likened to nagging because the child doesn’t follow instructions. So, when your child doesn’t comply with your instructions, say, “I have told you this before, but could you please do it this way…”

#5. Because I said so

Back in the olden days, parents didn’t explain their actions and inactions to their children; they did things their own way without involving the children. If the children ask for the reason why something should be done or not done, they said, “Because I said so.” 

In recent times, however, “Because I said so” is one of the things you should never say to your child, as children are now more inquisitive than ever. If you want your child to feel loved and cherished, be ready to explain why things should or shouldn’t be the way they are. 

#6. That’s how I was raised

This is related to the above, as it is based on doing things from your own perspective. Your parents might have given you a “proper upbringing” based on how things were done in the past. But you don’t want to force your upbringing on your children and constantly tell them that’s how you were raised. 

Telling them such only shuts them down and makes communication between you and your children to be difficult. So, instead of saying that’s how you were raised, express your feelings and beliefs by saying, “I don’t think it’s a good idea to do … When I was younger, my parents used to tell me that … because …”

The “because” part of the statement is very important because kids nowadays demand an explanation for everything. 

#7. You’re just like your mother/father

Saying “You’re just like your mother/father” in a negative tone is perhaps one of the most awful things you should never say to your child. The saying not only makes your child feel very guilty but also makes him or her start thinking the bad behaviour is inherited from one of the parents. 

Moreover, it shows that you and your spouse aren’t in good terms and can cause division in the family, as daddy and mummy appear not to be living in harmony. If your child does what you don’t like, find a better way of correcting the behaviour and not comparing the child with your spouse. 

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#8. I wish you were more like …

Just like the statement in number 7 above, this statement is among the most awful things you should never say to your child – because it also compares your child to someone else. The negative effect of this is that the child’s self-esteem suffers. Be it your child’s siblings or anybody, never compare your child with them. If there is a behaviour you want in your child, persuade him or her to adopt it.

#9. You live under my roof so you follow my rules

This statement makes you sound like a dictator, an authoritarian parent. It makes your child feel unwelcome at home. To make your child follow the house rules, first create and agree with the child on the applicable house rules, then try saying something like, “You know the household rules. Please stick to them.”

#10. You better do what I say or else

… or else what? This is a threat, and that’s the reason the statement makes to this list of things you should never say to your child. Persuasion through explanation is the key to shaping the behaviour of children nowadays. Using fear might be effective in the short run, but in the long run, the child may rebel or suffer low self-esteem. 

#11. I could do that when I was your age

This remark and “When I was in school, I used to get A1 parallel” are widely used by parents when they feel the child doesn’t perform to their expectation. As a parent, it is important to understand that although your children inherit your genes, they still have some uniqueness; your child may not inherit some of your skills and passion, and that’s fine. 

Also, don’t expect your child to grow at the rate at which you grew when you were younger. We are all unique, and you would only make your child feel he or she has disappointed you if you always say either or both of the two statements.

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#12. You are selfish

Your child may exhibit selfish behaviour, but telling it to his or her face is a thing you should never do. The reason is that the statement can have some damaging psychological effect on the child in the long run; this is why the statement is included in this list of things you should never say to your child. What you should understand is that selfishness is a behaviour that can be changed and not an unfixable character. 

So, instead of calling out your child as being selfish, try and improve his or her “sharing skills” – by making your child understand the importance of generosity. 

#13. Finish your food

You definitely don’t want your child to waste foods, especially the foods that improve children’s memory. But, at the same time, it is not advisable to always force your child to finish his or her food. If you do, your child would get used to being stuffed with foods – instead of stopping after satisfaction. The result can be obesity and bad eating habits in the future.  

#14. You are ungrateful

Because they are still young, children at times may forget to say “thank you” when you buy them a gift or do them a favour. The last thing you want to do when this happens is to say the child is ungrateful. Doing that would make the child feel bad. If you want your child to be grateful for things done for him or her, tell the child the importance of gratitude and how to express it. 

#15. It’s a white lie

In itself, a white lie isn’t something bad; it doesn’t hurt anybody. However, the line between a real lie and a white lie must be clearly drawn and explained to your child. If you tell a real lie in the presence of your child but claim that it is a white lie, you are only teaching your child how to become a perpetual liar. 

In short, remember that children don’t easily forget how they are treated and things said to them. Therefore, endeavour to always make interactions with your child a positive one!