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10 things parents shouldn’t say to their kids

Yahoo Lifestyle
9 May 2012


It's so difficult being a modern parent: trying to navigate through the linguistic minefield unscathed is a daily challenge.

There are all these things we're not supposed to say to  children any more for fear of doing some damage that will cost them a fortune in therapy down the line.

The trouble is, we tend to say things our parents said to us, and often the things they said are exactly the things you're not supposed to say.

We asked parents for their
suggestions on  the non-PC things we shouldn't be saying to our kids. Here’s our top 10.




1. "Don't be silly, there's no need to be scared of..."

According to @alabamacupcakes on Twitter, this undermines and disregards a child's fears. Speaking as someone who was raised in a house filled with "don't be sillys" I'd say it left me tougher but  very scornful of other people's "silly" things.

2. "Stop being so sensitive!"

This was suggested by @elana and many parents put forward similar thoughts. By telling a child not to cry or not to react a certain way, it may feel like you're comforting them, but actually you're just telling them their emotions aren't valid.

3. "You're naughty!"

People tend to live up to their labels, so if you tell a child its bad it just teaches them that they are made the wrong way. Instead, you are supposed to say that certain types behaviour is naughty - not your child. Anything else that labels a child - stop being mean, you're clumsy etc - is equally unhelpful.

                    [Related feature: 10 questions parents dread from their children]


4. "I'll shoot you"

This one comes courtesy of Megan P whose father-in-law says it to her boys whilst pointing his fingers like a gun. Apparently, he used to say it to his own children too when they did something naughty. They  used to simply retort "no you won't" before running off.

5. "You're so clever!"


A few parents suggested this. Jason S tells his daughter that she worked hard at something and he's proud of her and Elissa P says "you’ve practised so much you've got really good at that".

6. "Don't you look pretty!"

This is one comes from Angela M. "I'll tell my daughter she looks smart, that she looks refined, that her hair really suits her, that her outfit is lovely, and any variation thereof, but I never tell her she looks pretty. I don't want her thinking that in order to be worth something she needs to be "pretty". If you wouldn't say it to a boy you shouldn't say it to a girl – I don't want to tie her self-worth to her physical appearance. I know too many women with eating disorders." Makes sense, but then again, Dawn French always says that her confidence comes from being told daily that she was pretty, so who knows what's right?

7. "That's brilliant, well done!"

"Obviously, I'm not suggesting you never praise your child," says Marie F, mother-of-two and a company director, "but there's now a whole generation of 20-somethings who have been so over-praised that they're a nightmare to employ. They want positive reinforcement for every little job, and they consider things like promotions and pay rises something they're entitled to." But it's not all doom and gloom: "they also tend to have strong entrepreneurial qualities and think anything is possible, so maybe you have to take the rough with the smooth".

8. "I'm too busy!"

On Twitter, @neverenoughshoe assures us that following this by "but we'll do it later" (and sticking to it) IS allowed. Regularly telling a child you don't have time for them just teaches them that you're not available for them and you're not really interested.

9. "I don't believe you!"

Back in the 80s, Sesame Street had a storyline where no one believed that Big Bird's imaginary friend "My Snuffleupagus" was real. But with a string of reports of children not being believed when they told parents or carers about abuse, the writers decided that the adults had to meet the woolly mammoth. If you think your child is telling lies, it's better to try to get to the truth without saying you don't believe them.

10. "What you did made mummy sad"

Lisa G suggested this one, which is likely to divide parents. Some mothers love this as a gentler-sounding alternative to threats or punishments, but Lisa feels that it burdens a child with responsibility for your  emotions: "they'll feel like it's their fault if you're not always happy, and that's a lot to put on a child".

What do you think? Have you ever told your child he's naughty or that
she looks pretty? Are we all just  worrying too much about nothing or do you think it's all sound advice?

At the heart of Team Mum is the video series Raising an Olympian, sponsored by Proctor and Gamble, profiling athletes from across the world, their dedicated efforts to make it to Olympic Games, and the mothers who had tremendous impacts on their lives. Watch the videos on Yahoo! Lifestyle Team Mum.

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