NEVER Say These Words To a Child

videos Jun 14, 2018

Even if you are the calmest human being on the planet, you know good and well that being a parent can push you over the edge. Your day could be rolling along just fine until suddenly, before you know it, you are shouting words, at your kid, that you wouldn’t say in front of your own mother.

We’ve all been there before. We’ve all been Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to our children.

As normal as it is to lose control of our words, there are some things parents should never say to their kids.

Why? Words have power. They have the power to build up and tear down; to encourage or discourage; to motivate or de-motivate. More importantly, the words of an adult, when spoken to a child, have serious power of the child’s developing mind.

So, Dads lets remove these 10 phrases from our vocabulary.

“Stop crying”

There are a lot of things you feel like saying, but probably should just hold inside. This is definitely one of them. Just imagine a friend, after just breaking up with his girlfriend, coming to you for support only to say to them, “Stop crying!”

When we’re sad, we need an empathetic ear. The same is true for kids. They need validation and to know that they aren’t alone.

Ultimately, crying is an expression of what’s going on inside. And, let’s be honest, some adults have never figured out how to express those things. So, it’s important to teach our kids that it’s normal to talk about our thoughts or feelings.

“I don’t believe you”

When your kids are small, you can lay a lot of groundwork that will help when they are older. One of those things you can do is to build trust. Even if you know your son or daughter is teasing you or just using their imagination, there is no need to say “I don’t believe you.” Can you relate to any of these examples?

  • You daughter runs up and tells you a far-fetched story about an imaginary creature that was in class with them
  • Your son tells you he brushed his teeth even though you know he was only in the bathroom for 10 seconds
  • Your daughter tells you she’s full even though her entire breakfast is still on her plate.

These moments give you the opportunity to let your child know you trust them. You’ll be tempted to try to play Mr. Interrogator, but try to resist. You’re laying a foundation for later on when you need them to open up.

“You are fat” or “You are going to get fat”

This is probably common sense, but saying something like this can shame your son or daughter. Maybe your child does need to lose weight; maybe you want them to be healthier. But, there are better ways to approach the issue than by telling them they are fat.

Why is this a big deal? For the same reason we talked about earlier: words from an adult are powerful.

When you put negative ideas like these into the minds of your children, the result can be eating disorders or poor body image.

Let’s just say that you feel like your child needs to get healthy. Here are some appropriate steps you can take:

  1. Model a healthy lifestyle (monkey see, monkey do)
  2. Make it a habit to play outside together
  3. Don’t eat out. Cook together with your son or daughter
  4. Love your child no matter what and don’t ever bring up their weight

“You’re such a disappointment”

How many of us have made mistakes in our lives? Every. single. one. of. us.

Our children have and will continue to mess up. When they do, we need to avoid connecting out children’s identity with their mistake. If they do something bad, they are not bad. Their behavior is. If they do something mean, they are not mean. Their behavior is.

That means, we need to be careful not to say, “You’re being bad! You’re mean! You’re a disappointment!”

These words can stick with our kids for the rest of their lives and they can. So, be sure to say them that you love them unconditionally, that they are good people, and that you’re going to work together to fix the problem.

“Why can’t you be like your brother/sister?”

Levels of childhood anxiety and depression are increasing at drastic rates. And, a big reason for that is increased access to the best part of everyone’s lives.

Our kids are exposed, all day long, to the happy photos of their friends at parties (that they weren’t invited to) or pictures of the cool, new toys their friends just received (that their parents couldn’t afford). Because of that exposure, they are constantly comparing themselves with their peers – leading to serious emotional and mental health issues.

If that doesn’t convict you, I don’t know what will. When we play the comparison game with our children, we are making them feel small; making them feel like they aren’t enough. We are making a negative impact on their mental health. Instead of comparing them, use your words to build up your kids’ self-confidence.

“Your mother is so…” or “Your father is so…” 

You may talk like this around your guy-friends. But – whether you are happily married, divorced, or somewhere in between – never complain or talk bad about your spouse. The end result of bad-mouthing your partner, or your ex-partner, is that your kids will lose respect for YOU.

“You are great, BUT…”

This is called the dreadful “BUT sandwich.” Some people might call it the Oreo cookie – “I like your hair. I wish you wouldn’t leave dirty dishes in the sink. I like your pretty smile.”

The BUT sandwich happens when you compliment your child only to follow it up with something they don’t do so well.

  • I love you, but I wish you’d learn to use the potty
  • I like spending time with you, but sometimes you can be a little bit too loud
  • I like being your daddy, but you make it hard when you can’t clean your room

The truth is that your child will only remember the negative part. They’ll forget the compliment and dwell on your critique. And that’s much different than the way we would hear it, right?

Here’s the deal. Positive reinforcement should never be done with a “but.” Always save the teaching-moments for another time.

Podcast Ep. 172 – 9 Things You Should NEVER Say To a Child 


“Big Boys or Big girls are not scared”

Remember, we are building a foundation that will help our kids when they are older. One important part of that is teaching them their feelings are valid and that expressing them is okay.

So, be honest with yourself for a second. When is the last time you were scared? Maybe you were worried about your finances. Or maybe you thought a loved-one was in danger.

We get scared all the time and our kids do too.

So, avoid telling them that big girls and boys don’t get scared. Because, the moment they are afraid, they will think something is wrong and they won’t have the confidence to work through it. The goal is to help them acknowledge their fear and learn tools for dealing with their feelings in a healthy way.

“Calm down”

Your kids are going to have tantrums. If they never do, something is wrong. When it happens, remember that it’s not about you. Your children are experiencing all kinds of emotions, for the first time in their lives, and they are learning how to deal with them.

If you want to make it worse – if you want to pour gasoline on the fire – tell them to calm down when they are in the middle of their tantrum.

Nobody wants to be told “calm down,” adults and kids included. What we need is an empathetic person who lets us feel, lets us express our emotion, and then debriefs when the emotionally-heightened moment is over.

In other words, tell yourself to calm down so you can help your kids process their emotions.


Last, don’t shut down emotionally or mentally when you’re around your kids. Life can be crazy, work can be stressful, but your kids will always need to feel important to you. As best you can, be open with your children and let them know you’re available when they need to talk.

An extra tip? Do this early on and it will be easier when your kids are older.

What do you think? Would you add anything to this list? Let us know. We’d love to hear from you!

Enjoy this article?
Get unlimited access to Dad University

The #1 educational platform for dads. Join our growing community of fathers from around the world!

Become a Member