Dad University – 10 Things Dads Should Never Say to Their Child
As parents, we’re all guilty of telling our child things borne out of good intentions, not realizing that these could affect their outlook on life, behavior, and self-confidence. Here are 10 things you should never say to avoid negatively impacting your child’s mental and emotional well-being:
1. “You make me mad.”
This can also be “You are upsetting me” or “You are frustrating me” — basically any sentence that blames your child for your emotions. While it might not always feel like it, emotions are ultimately a choice and, as dads, we have to be responsible for our own. Remember that your child isn’t responsible for your feelings and you always have a choice on how you want to respond to every circumstance.
2. “What is wrong with you?”
When said in a different, accusatory tone, this seemingly simple question can have long-term negative effects on your child. They might internalize this sentence and potentially believe that something is indeed wrong with them. Instead of wording your question this way, you can ask “What made you decide to do that?” or “What were you thinking when you did that?” This allows more room for communication and understanding.
3. “Why can’t you be like your sibling?”
Comparing your child to anyone is already a bad idea — comparing them to their sibling is even worse. Besides making your child feel like they’re not good enough, doing this only further reinforces sibling rivalry, which can result in resentment. Instead of getting your kids to get along, one child will only end up resenting the “perfect” sibling, as well as lose confidence in themselves.
4. Anything Negative About Their Mom
One of the most important things a dad should not say in front of their child is anything negative about their mom. There’s no benefit in badmouthing her. If you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything at all. Don’t negatively influence your child’s opinion or relationship with their mom. Instead, give them the freedom to form their own opinion.
5. “Stop crying.”
Parents usually say this when trying to calm a child down. But merely telling them to stop crying invalidates their emotions and presumes they have the tools to calm themselves down — which they often don’t. Instead, communicate with your child and empathize with them. Hugs go a long way, too. Try to approach this in an empathic but logical way by saying, “Crying doesn’t seem to be solving the problem — what can we do to solve it?”
6. “You are a bad child.”
There’s no such thing as a bad child — only bad behavior. Using the word “bad” doesn’t help identify what should be corrected. Be very specific about both the behavior you don’t like and the behavior you’d like to see. Deal with bad behavior by showing your child the good behavior that you want them to do instead.
7. “We can’t afford that.”
In teaching our children how to manage finances, we must set an early example by not allowing our money to control us. Instead of saying you can’t afford something, you can tell your child that “We choose not to spend money on that” as it teaches them to prioritize spending only on things that are necessary. Not only does this help them realize the value of money, but it also shows them that we, as parents, have control over our money and not the other way around.
8. “You are okay.”
Telling your child that they’re okay won’t magically make them okay. You might be trying to calm your child down, but statements like this only serve to disconnect you from them as they would feel as if you don’t understand what they’re going through. Put yourself in their shoes — you wouldn’t want to be told that “you’re okay” while going through a very upsetting situation.
9. “Because I said so.”
Emphasizing your authority as a parent eliminates conversation and doesn’t give your child the opportunity to learn. It might even encourage them to break more rules, simply because they don’t understand why you don’t want them to do something. Instead of being authoritative, communicate with your child, explain your reasons, and provide them with choices so they can feel more in control.
10. “I am so proud of you.”
Most parents won’t agree with this, but telling your child that you’re proud of them makes it more about you than what they actually did. We don’t want our child to rely on external judgment — we want them to feel good from within. We can help them own their actions by saying instead, “You should be proud of yourself.” This way, you don’t make it about you but about the actions or behaviors they did that have led to a positive outcome.
Sticks and Stones
These tips teach us that words can have an impact on our children, specifically because they look up to us and value our opinions. Be mindful of what you tell your child, but, as they grow older, you should also teach them to be more resilient and not be too affected by the opinions of others.
What are your thoughts on the topic?