There’s no manual that tells parents exactly how to raise a child—if there was, there would be no need for articles like this! Child-rearing, and how one approaches it, is constantly changing.
All parents can do is learn from the past while incorporating new strategies, along with their own ideas on how to reinforce good behavior and values into their child’s upbringing. It might not always be easy to know exactly what to do but you can begin by identifying what you should avoid. Finding effective ways to communicate with your kids is key, experts say, because it’s so easy to give kids the wrong message or understanding during this impressionable time.
Experts have outlined some of the most common phrases that parents use and why they should be avoided. How many of these have you used before?
1. “Stop Crying” – It’s important to encourage kids to express their emotions and help them recognize their feelings and deal with them effectively. Telling them to “stop crying” can make a child begin to stifle their emotions for fear they’ll be punished.
2. “Hurry Up!” – At one point or another, most of us have probably rushed a child because we were in a hurry to get somewhere. Your tone of voice and how often you say it can make the child begin to feel guilty, especially if they’re lagging behind because they’re trying to do something themselves, like tie their shoes. You don’t want to negatively affect their confidence, and making them feel bad won’t make them go any faster.
3. “You Know Better Than That!” – This comment usually lacks an effective message because often times tiny humans don’t actually know better. They can’t weigh pros and cons as efficiently as an adult can, nor differentiate between right and wrong as effectively. Remember that for children, learning is a trial-and-error process.
4. “Good Job!” – Using the same phrase as positive reinforcement can turn into white noise for a child. Try to be more specific and outline what the child did well. Social psychologist Dr. Susan Newmansays, “It is far more helpful in terms of encouragement and building self-esteem if you focus on how your child achieved [something].”
5. “Leave Me Alone” or “I’m Busy” – Children can begin to internalize you brushing them off and be less likely to come to you in the future. Dr. Suzette Haden Elgin, the founder of the Ozark Center for Language Studies, says “They begin to think there’s no point in talking to you because you’re always brushing them off.” Try being more specific so they understand that you’re actually busy but still want to make time for them.
6. “Why Can’t You Be More Like Your Sister?” – The comparison is not an effective means of communicating with your kids, experts say. Using a frame of reference, such as a friend or more often a sibling, may seem like a productive way to get across how you expect them to behave but it doesn’t usually work out that way. Your child can only be themselves and develop at their own pace, and comparing them to someone else makes it sound like you wish they were someone different.
7. “You’re so…” – Using a specific word or label to pigeonhole your child to a specific characteristic can be harmful, experts say. Negative labels, such as calling them “bad” or “lazy” can make children believe they actually are those things, and sometimes they even start to exhibit behavior within those stereotypes. The key to avoiding the negativity associated with a label is to address the issue specifically.
8. “Wait Until Mommy/Daddy Gets Home!” – We’ve all done it. Passing the torch to your spouse may seem like an empty threat with successful results, but experts say parents need to remain equals to their children. In the long run, having one parent as the go-to disciplinarian is much less effective than sticking together as a united team. Experts say that by diverting the disciplining role you’re actually implying to your children that you don’t have any power while giving it to the parent that isn’t present. Sometimes it’s difficult, but they say you shouldn’t put off punishing a child’s actions; you should handle them right then and there.