What Not to Say to Your Child

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(Editor’s note: Today’s guest post is from Kitty Holman, and she’s giving us all some ideals to live up to. I have to admit, I say one of these things; but it’s not quite in the way mentioned here. Thanks Kitty!)

Growing up I always vowed never to act like my parents. I promised myself that I would never give my children the all too familiar brush off answers that used to drive me bonkers like, “because I said so” when asked why I couldn’t go to the park and play. Most make this same vow to never utter those words yet somehow, history always repeats itself. But according to child and teen psychologist Dr. Jennifer Hartstein, parents might want to try a little harder to keep that promise. In a recent CBS Early Morning Show interview, Hartstein said answers like “because I said so” can ultimately damage your child’s self-esteem. Below is a breakdown of her top three things not to say to your child and why.

What you say: “Because I said so.”

What they hear/think: “What I have to say doesn’t matter.”

Whether it’s declining a child’s request or the immediate response to a question, most parents typically regurgitate “because I said so” to end conversations with their child. Parents do this because they feel as authority figures their responses need no justification or explanation. However, according to Hartstein, your child is going to hear things (and think) “well, clearly you don’t want to know what I have to say,’ or, ‘clearly my input doesn’t matter,’ so they’re going to question whether or not they should even try.” When all is said and done, Hartstein suggests the best alternative is to give the child a firm no (not because I said so) and explain to them why you are saying no. They’ll know it’s not because their “input doesn’t matter.”

What you say: “What were you thinking?!”

What they hear: “What’s wrong with you?”

Because children (especially teenagers) “live in the moment,” chances are if you ask your child what he or she was thinking, you’ll get a generic answer such as “I don’t know.” As annoying as that answer may be, they’re most likely telling the truth—he or she just wasn’t thinking. So instead of chewing off his or her head, Hartstein advises to maintain an open-communication whenever your child makes a big mistake. She says it’s imperative that parents try to evaluate the whole situation with their child first and give them a chance to explain themselves. This includes having a walk-through of the entire situation—including what led them up to that point of the mistake. This is not to say that she is against punishment, but offers an alternative method to avoid a common phrase that could have negative life-long affects. And remember: everyone makes mistakes at some point, even you the parent.

What you say: “What do you know? You’re just a kid!”

What they hear/think: “Maybe I don’t know anything. Maybe I really am dumb.”

Children can be frustrating at times. Some of a certain “know-it-all” stage more frustrating than others. While certain children may they think they know everything the truth of the matter is they don’t. And it’s your job to teach them, especially things that schools can’t. If your child wants to voluntarily express wrong information or makes a mistake, Hartstein says don’t reprimand them because of the fact that he/she is a child. Educate them.

This guest post is contributed by Kitty Holman, who writes on the topics of nursing schools. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: kitty.holman20@gmail.com.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want to know what to say to their children.

Image courtesy of Brainedge via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.

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  • Eddy December 7, 2010, 4:18 am

    Hey Kitty, I have a son that is 17 years now and mostly I try to avoid fraces like above, but when I´m angry or stressed out sometimes I cannot hold back to say some stupid like, “Cause I said so”. Thats just wag, cause my son will just think like, “I don´t care”.
    I try my bust all the time and I think thats what I can do

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  • John Hunter December 7, 2010, 8:50 pm

    My parents really tried to avoid the “Because I said so.” But they sure got tired of me trying to ask why and they why that and then why that. I think it is the right approach but you better have patience if you have a kid like me. http://engineering.curiouscatblog.net/2007/01/04/sarah-aged-3-learns-about-soap/
    John Hunter´s last blog post ..How to Get a New Management Strategy- Tool or Concept Adopted

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  • Bret Hart December 22, 2010, 11:33 am

    Thanks! Great post. Every time I read your blog, I get some new valuable info. Keep on posting!

    Reply