Remember that thing your mom or dad used to say that drove you nuts? You swore you’d never say it to your own kids and then one day, it slips out as if it were just waiting, dormant. There are things parents say that run the gamut of harmful to useless to just plain dumb and somehow, despite our best efforts, they slip into our lexicon.
When my mom would brush the knots out of my hair and I’d scream in pain, she’d say, “No charge!” Once I figured out what that even meant, I started yelling back in frustration: “I wasn’t paying you anyway!” Well, imagine my surprise when “no charge” came out of my mouth while combing my son’s hair last week. OK, I’ve told you one of mine. What’s yours? Is it one of these 25 things parents say that we just need to stop?
1. Stop crying or I’m going to give you something to cry about.
What exactly are we saying here? Stop crying or I’m going to hurt you? If your child tries to manipulate you by crying, try, “When you’re done crying, we can talk about this.”
2. Wipe that smile off your face or I’m gonna wipe it off for you.
So now we want them to stop smiling. Sure, disrespect is no laughing matter, but just like the point above, threatening violence is probably not the best approach.
3. I brought you into this world and I’ll just as soon take you out!
I know this worked when Cliff Huxtable said it to Theo, but let’s leave threats of murder out of our conversations with our kids.
4. I’m not going to tell you again.
Empty threats are an entire category of things parents say. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. If you have to say it, give a consequence. “I’m not going to tell you again; I’m just going to take away your phone.”
5. Don’t make me turn this car around.
Another empty threat. You’re probably gonna keep on driving and they’ll know they called your bluff.
6. I love you right now, but I don’t like you.
This one is often directed at kids in their teen years, a time when their need for approval is the greatest. Even if his or her attitude is rotten, condemn the behavior, not the child.
7. You’ve got to toughen up.
If you have a sensitive child, see it as a gift. We could use a little more empathy, emotion, and tenderness in the world.
8. How many times do I have to tell you?
Apparently one more!
9. Eat your dinner. There are starving children in Africa.
Some things parents say can change their kids for the better. Build your children up with our free printable 30 Day Encouragement Challenge.
10. You kids will be the death of me yet.
This is a sarcastic way of saying “you kids are stressing me out.” But one, they might not understand sarcasm and two, telling children how their behavior affects your health puts a big burden on little hearts.
11. Then I’ll just leave you here.
I’m not gonna lie. I’ve said this. Best case: You play chicken and win. Worst case: They call your bluff and you’ve given yet another empty threat. Super worst-don’t-actually-do-this-case: You leave your child somewhere and pay for therapy years later.
12. Back in my day…
They don’t care.
13. Practice makes perfect.
This is one of the things parents say that I have to hold myself back from repeating. Perfection isn’t the goal—progress is.
14. Don’t let that bother you.
We don’t know what nerve, need, or fear something has struck, so it’s unfair to say this to a child. It doesn’t feel good to be told this as an adult, so chances are, it is annoying to kids as well.
15. Go ask your father.
You don’t want to be the heavy or you can’t come up with a good excuse, so you pass the buck. But talk about a potential backfire. What if Dad says yes?
16. You can be anything you set your mind to.
As much as we hate to admit it, this is just not true. Sure, there is power in positive thinking and hard work, but there’s also talent, timing, and competition—all things that are out of our control.
17. You’re OK.
Telling our kids how they feel is counterproductive. For a skinned knee, “Ouch. That looks like it hurts,” will probably calm a kid down just the same and it doesn’t negate the pain or shut down a kid’s ability to think for him or herself.
18. Because I said so.
Guilty as charged. I’ve said this one out of pure frustration. While I want my kids to respect my authority, expecting blind obedience will probably just lead to a power struggle.
19. We can discuss this when you’re older.
If they’re asking about it now, you need to discuss it now before they learn about it from someone else. There are age-appropriate ways to cover most any topic.
20. If you live under my roof, you’re gonna follow my rules.
Part-empty threat, part-authoritarian method, this one just puts up a wall, ironically, in that house you’re referring to. A better option, which will also help them understand the big picture, is giving the reasons behind the rules.
21. If you’re going to act like a child, I’m going to treat you like one.
Um… your kid is a child. His or her brain is not completely formed. We have to remind ourselves of that.
22. Do as I say, not as I do.
Whether it’s gossiping, binge drinking, or not returning the grocery cart to the proper spot, saying this tells your kids you expect something from them that you’re not willing to do yourself. The likelihood they’re going to do what you tell them? Slim to none.
23. Someone had better be bleeding!
I know this is sarcasm, but do we want our kids to think they are such an inconvenience that there needs to be an actual emergency to warrant our presence?
24. I hope your kids turn out just like you.
“You’re a back-talker! May you be given a taste of your own medicine and have to parent a back-talker!” It’s mean-spirited and says to your child, “You are a pain and I want you to know how difficult you are.”
25. Don’t make me count to three.
Why tempt them? Just start counting.
What are some of the things parents say that you think we need to quit saying because they are hurtful, useless, or just nonsense?