20 Phrases You Should Avoid Uttering in Front of Your Children

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Raising children is a rewarding experience that presents a myriad of opportunities to learn and grow, not only for the little ones but for us as parents as well. It is crucial to recognize the influence our words and behaviors have on our children as they navigate through their formative years. This piece underscores the importance of communication and offers suggestions on how to express ourselves in ways that positively impact our children’s mental well-being. Here are 20 phrases you should avoid when dealing with your children.

1. “I’m proud of you.”

“I’m proud of you” may initially appear to be a positive statement, but it can unintentionally place the responsibility for their parents’ pride on the child, creating an unnecessary burden. An alternative approach would be to say, “You should be proud of yourself,” as it encourages self-esteem and personal accomplishment.

2. “Good Job!”

“Good Job!” Blanket praises, when used repeatedly, can lose their meaning and potentially lead to a child relying too much on external validation. It’s important to be specific in acknowledging the child’s achievements in order to encourage positive behavior. An alternative approach would be to offer specific feedback such as, “I noticed the effort you put into your drawing, and it turned out great!”

3. “You should set a good example for your sibling”

“You should set a good example for your sibling” can create undue pressure and resentment for older siblings. Instead of burdening them with the responsibility of being a role model, try saying, “Your sibling really looks up to you. They love how you share your toys.”

4. “Wait until your father/mother gets home”

Delaying discipline by saying “Wait until your father/mother gets home” can create an uneven family dynamic. It’s crucial for both parents to take part in establishing boundaries and enforcing discipline. An alternative approach would be to address the issue right away by saying something like, “Let’s discuss what occurred and how we can make improved choices in the future.”

5. “I will never forgive you”

“I will never forgive you,” when said in a moment of anger, can have a long-lasting negative effect on a child. It’s crucial to convey to your child that everyone makes mistakes and that they’re opportunities for learning rather than permanent faults. Instead of expressing unforgiveness, consider saying, “What you did was not okay, but we can learn from this and move forward.”

6. “Don’t worry, everything will be OK”

While it’s instinctive to desire to reassure your child, it’s equally essential to acknowledge their emotions and apprehensions. Disregarding their worries can lead them to feel neglected or misinterpreted. An alternative approach would be to say, “I comprehend your concerns. Let’s discuss what we can do to alleviate them.”

7. “Here, I’ll do it”

Instead of taking over, offer guidance by suggesting, ‘Let’s try doing it together.’ It’s important to allow your child to struggle and figure things out on their own, as jumping in to do tasks for them can undermine their independence and hinder their learning.”

8. “Don’t cry”

Children naturally express their emotions through crying, and encouraging them to do so is important for their emotional development. Discouraging crying can lead them to suppress their feelings, which is not beneficial for their well-being. A more helpful approach is to acknowledge their emotions and let them know it’s okay to cry. You can say, “I can see that you’re upset, and it’s okay to cry. Let’s talk about what’s bothering you.”

9. “If you eat all your dinner, you can have dessert”

This statement might inadvertently elevate dessert as the primary aim and diminish the significance of a well-rounded meal. Alternative: Instead, you might want to say, “We eat our main course first, as it provides us with the necessary fuel. Then, we can savor our dessert.”

10. “You’re in the way”

Children are naturally curious and may inadvertently obstruct your activities while trying to observe or help. Instead of pushing them aside, try to include them in your activities. Rather than saying they are in the way, you can express appreciation for their help and ask them to pass you the ________.”

11. “Because I said so”

“Because I said so” is frequently used in moments of frustration, but it’s crucial to provide rationale for your rules and requests. This approach promotes understanding and cooperation. Rather than simply saying, “When I said so,” endeavor to provide an explanation. For instance, you can say, “We need to leave now to avoid being late.”

12. “You’re in big trouble.”

Let’s discuss the consequences” Instead of using threats like “You’re in big trouble,” which can create fear and anxiety, it’s better to express disappointment and have a conversation about appropriate consequences.

13. “If you take good care of yourself, you’ll stay healthy.”

Emphasizing the importance of healthy habits and self-care is crucial. However, it’s also essential to acknowledge that illness can affect everyone, irrespective of their wellness practices. Therefore, a more balanced approach would be to convey that practicing self-care can strengthen the body and expedite recovery during times of illness.

14. “Family finances aren’t your business.”

Although shielding children from adult concerns is crucial, it’s also advantageous to engage in discussions about money in ways that are suitable for their age in order to impart financial literacy. Instead of ignoring their inquiries, you can respond, “Money is what we use to purchase the things we need and desire. As you grow older, we can guide you in learning more about managing your finances.”

15. “I’m disappointed in you.”

This statement can lead a child to believe that they no longer have their parent’s affection. It’s more effective to communicate disappointment regarding the behavior rather than the child.

16. “Stop being so sensitive.”

This can dismiss your child’s emotions and dissuade them from expressing their feelings. Alternative: “I understand that this is important to you. Let’s discuss it.”

17. “You always make mistakes.”

Generalizing mistakes can be detrimental to a child’s confidence and willingness to try new things. An alternative approach could be to emphasize that everyone makes mistakes and highlight the opportunities for learning and growth inherent in making errors. Encouraging reflection and brainstorming about different approaches for next time can also be helpful.

18. “You never listen.”

Criticisms such as this can put children on the defensive and make them less inclined to participate. An alternative way to address the issue could be: “It appears that we are struggling to communicate. Let’s make an effort to better understand each other.

19. “You’re just like [negative comparison]”

You possess the ability to make positive decisions independently. Comparing a child unfavorably to others can harm their self-esteem.

20. “Don’t Talk Back”

While showing respect is crucial, this statement can hinder open and honest communication. Instead, “I appreciate your viewpoint, but let’s have a respectful conversation about this.”

21. “That’s a silly question.”

Disregarding a child’s curiosity can discourage them from asking questions and being open to learning. An alternative response could be: “That’s an intriguing question. Let’s explore it together.”

22. “Stop being a baby.”

This statement may belittle a child for showing authentic emotions or requiring assistance. An alternative approach is, “It’s alright to feel upset. What can I do to support you and help you feel better?”

23. “You’re too old for that.”

Restricting what is considered appropriate for their age could deter them from embracing innocent hobbies. Alternative: “It’s wonderful that you find joy in this. Each person has their own individual interests.”

24. “Why can’t you be more like your sibling/friend?”

Comparisons may lead to feelings of resentment and negatively impact self-esteem. Instead, it can be more beneficial to acknowledge and celebrate your own unique strengths and talents.

25. “You did that wrong.”

Direct criticism can be discouraging and can hinder the willingness to experiment and make an effort. An alternative could be: “Great attempt! Let’s explore different approaches you could take.”


The way we communicate in front of our children is crucial. It is our responsibility to model the behavior and communication style we want them to adopt. By avoiding phrases that could have a negative impact and choosing words that inspire and support, we can create a nurturing environment where our children feel valued, listened to, and capable of achieving great things. Dr. L. Alan Sroufe, an expert in child development and Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Minnesota, emphasizes the importance of communication in nurturing a child’s sense of security and self-worth. Similarly, Dr. Tovah Klein, Director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler

More To Think About

As caregivers navigate the complexities of raising children, they are constantly reminded of the huge responsibility they bear for shaping their children’s experiences. The language used in front of kids, the values demonstrated through behavior, and the home environment all play crucial roles in their development. It’s not just about avoiding negative comments or unpleasant situations; it’s about actively fostering an atmosphere where good values, respectful relationships, and a growth mindset can thrive. Dr. L. Alan Sroufe and Dr. Tovah Klein, through their extensive research and work at the Institute of Child Development, emphasize the importance of understanding the lasting impact our words can have on a child’s mental strength and overall development.

The significance of the language we use in the presence of our children cannot be overemphasized too much. Whether we are discussing adult topics using language or making passing remarks about habits such as eating or excessive screen time, we are communicating a message about what is deemed acceptable and unacceptable. These instances, whether they entail reinforcing behavior or addressing it, present opportunities to guide our children in making appropriate decisions. It is not only about avoiding mistakes but also about making the right choices from the outset and recognizing the potential consequences of seemingly innocuous actions.

Our daily conversations, the social media content we engage with, and the movies we watch alongside our children all have an impact on shaping their perceptions of the world and their place within it. As authority figures, friends, and family members, we must recognize the importance of our actions and interactions in influencing their perspectives. Every choice we make, from fostering conflict resolution to cultivating a mindset of openness, has the potential to contribute to the development of healthy lifestyles, positive attitudes, and strong connections.

When spending time with our children, every opportunity is a chance to demonstrate important values such as kindness, resilience, curiosity, and the joy of learning. By taking a moment to consider the impact of our words and actions on them and aiming to be a positive influence, we are not only avoiding sending the wrong message, but we are also actively directing them towards the right path. Let’s strive to be authentic around our kids, recognizing that what truly counts is providing them with love, understanding, and steadfast support as they navigate through the journey of growing up.