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What Not to Say to Kids

“Say hello to…”
This one is a thorny one for me, largely because I am guilty of saying it to my child, while simultaneously regretting it. While I think it is important to teach our children to interact with others in a way that is engaged and polite, making that engagement forced and compulsory is just not the way. By coercing our children into having conversations, or even greetings, with others we are telling them they are not in control of their social interactions and letting them know it is acceptable to tell others when and how to talk. Children develop their social abilities over time, and expecting them to comfortably and consistently conform to our social attitudes is a bit unrealistic. Instead, I would (and I try) to say something like, “This is Mr. Smith, and would you like to say hello right now?”

And there are others, like “You are so…” and “Just leave me alone!” These seem somewhat obvious to me and shouldn’t require too much explanation as to why they are not constructive ways to engage with your child. And there are likely so many more. What things do you often hear parents saying to children that you object to? Is there something you have said to your child in the past that you have changed, and if so, where the results positive? What encouraging and positive things can be said in place of some of the above negative comments?

Read more: Babies, Blogs, Caregiving, Children, Family, Love, Mental Wellness, Parenting at the Crossroads, Relationships, Stress, Teens, , , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

82 comments

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5:05AM PDT on Jun 15, 2013

One day my mom said that I had no dignity because I was going out and my hair just didn't look good enough. EW.

8:22AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

Words that scar and do damage are not to be used, think back of the nasty things that some parents may have said to you when you were growing up. Do you use the same words when angry? I was lucky enough to have parents that did not verbally abuse me when my behaviour was somewhat naughty.

There are some parents who use words that are totally unacceptable and of course some who could care less about what the effects are. They forget that young children do take things quite literally. Admonishing a child while being firm, corrective and guiding can be done without cruel comments.

Anger can bring out our negative side but try to think first before saying things like "I wish you had never been born!" and things like that.

5:09PM PDT on May 24, 2012

Wow black pedagogy... sends shivers down my back, thanks for posting!

7:32PM PDT on May 10, 2012

thanks, there are obvious things, but sometimes we don't pay attention

9:50PM PDT on May 9, 2012

This article is really helpful for me. Hope that I can keep these things in mind when I'm older and have children.

6:27PM PDT on May 9, 2012

Thank you

2:51PM PDT on May 9, 2012

Interesting.
Thanks

10:58AM PDT on May 9, 2012

Thanks

8:43AM PDT on May 8, 2012

Thank you for sharing.

8:23AM PDT on May 8, 2012

thanks this is a key issue!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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