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8 Phrases Parents Should Never Say to Their Kids

8 Phrases Parents Should Never Say to Their Kids

Make no mistake; while parenting is one of the most rewarding challenges you can undertake as an adult, it is also one of the most difficult. After all, as parents we are often preoccupied with the practical requirements of parenting, such as creating a safe, durable, and damp-free home and providing financially for our children’s future.

This can cause us to lose sight of our children’s emotional needs, however, which in turn can have a detrimental effect on their development and mental well-being. More specifically, we can inadvertently say things that have a negative impact in the mind of infants, cultivating long-term issues like low self-esteem, diminished confidence, and an unhealthy sense of competitiveness.

With this in mind, here are 8 phrases parents should never say to their kids during their development.

1. “Don’t make me ashamed of you.”

Let’s start with phrases revolving around the carrot and the stick phenomenon, which parents mindlessly use to either solicit good behaviour or discourage mischievousness. By using extreme and emotive phrases such as “don’t make me ashamed of you”, however, you are running the risk of emotionally wounding your child and hindering their ability to process both praise and constructive criticism.

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Children who hear this phrase are also likely to constantly seek approval in the eyes of others, and this can breed significant issues when they attempt to form romantic relationships in later life.

2. “I promise we can go on holiday this year.”

Conversely, it can be equally damaging to dangle rewards in-front of children, only to withdraw them without notice or just reason. This can create trust issues between you and your kids, while it may also hinder them from forming bonds with other adults in positions of authorities.

Of course, parents can argue that financial constraints may prevent them from booking a planned holiday, but it is always better to seek out an affordable alternative than reneging on your promise entirely. This is always an option, as was evidenced in the wake of the Great Recession when motorhome sales soared as customers flocked to seek alternatives as the cost of overseas travel became prohibitive.

Above all else, remember the importance of a promise in the mind of a child, and if compromise is required then explain this in detail before proceeding.

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3. “When I was your age, I was doing great.”

In the eyes of infants aged under the age of six, parents are perceived as Gods rather than mere mortals. Being placed on a pedestal in this manner adds gravity to everything that you say, while the dynamics of the relationships that they form with others are also influenced heavily by the phrases and statements that you use.

If you constantly refer to your own achievements as a child, for example, you may be fostering an unhealthy sense of competitiveness in your kids and creating an infant mind-set that is desperate to validate its self-worth. While this is not necessarily harmful during childhood, it takes on a more sinister form later in life as it encourages individuals to pursue goals to please others rather than personal gratification. This can lead to long-term unhappiness and prevent your children from enjoying a full and contented life.

4. “The other children performed better than you on that test.”

Similarly, comparing your child’s level of achievement with that of their peers can have a highly detrimental impact on their ability to form relationships with people of the same age. Instead of seeing the value in friendship and forming bonds, they are more likely to view their peers and competitors who must be superseded at every opportunity.

This not only hinders their social development, but it will also impact the way in which they are perceived by others. Perhaps even more worryingly, the process of comparing children negatively to their classmates can also create self-esteem issues in later life, as well as an innate tendency to validate themselves in accordance with the actions of others.

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5. “You won’t grow up to be strong if you don’t eat all of your dinner.”

This is a common and often playful phrase, which is well-intended but can have a negative impact on children. After all, eating disorders and phobias surrounding certain foods are far more likely to emerge during childhood, occasionally as a result of trauma but more commonly through the subconscious projections of parents.

In this instance, you are using a form of manipulation to achieve a desired result, and this can cause children to place too heavy an emphasis on the importance of food and the consequences of not eating certain delicacies. Instead, it is far better to encourage children to eat specific foods by articulating their health benefits, or alternatively make the process of eating more engaging and a little less serious.

6. “You’re just like your father (or mother).”

Now the impact phrase depends largely on its delivery, although as a general rule you should avoid saying it at all costs. Even if the phrase is repeated in jest, it can create negative connotations in a child’s mind and cause them to take a dim of view of the traits that they share with a particular parent.

This can create distance between you and your child, but this is nothing compared to the impact of this phrase when it is uttered in anger. In this instance, you are presenting a clear sign that you are unhappy with your relationship, unsettling the child and inadvertently engaging them in a parental conflict. Your child may also become a subconscious outlet for your angst and frustration, which in turn lowers their self-esteem and creates an unwanted distraction at school.

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With this in mind, strive to avoid unflattering comparisons between your child and partner, and instead frame your criticism constructively without referring to anybody else.

7. “I don’t want to hear another peep out of you.”

Sure, kids can be rowdy and boisterous at times, and as a parent it is your job to manage their behaviour according to the situation. Conversely, parents must not create boundaries that prevent their children from expressing themselves, or attempt to curb the natural mischievousness that is often a sign of intelligence or creativity.

By telling your child that you do want to hear them anymore, regardless of the circumstances, you are unknowingly suggesting that their presence is not welcome in your life. In the developing mind of a child, this tends to breed feelings of guilt and inadequacy, as they can find it hard to distinguish between the vagaries of words and how they are used. Instead of using such harsh and cutting language, you should instead focus on your tone when telling your child to be quiet and frame it as a real-time rather than an open-ended instruction.

8. “If you do this for me, I’ll love you forever.”

The issue with this phrase is obvious to spot, as parents are supposed to love their child on an eternal and unconditional basis. This type of seemingly innocent and playful phrase actually suggests that a parent’s love is conditional on your behaviour and fulfilment of their wishes, and this can have huge implications as your children grow and attempt to form adult relationships.

Such a phrase, when used over time, also conditions children to grow into people-pleasers, as they set aside their own wishes to satisfy others regardless of the circumstances. This risk must be negated at all costs, as you while you should always remind your child that you love them you must also clarify the fact that this emotion is unconditional entirely unrelated to their behaviour or values.

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Published on September 21, 2020

The Danger of Overscheduling Your Kids

The Danger of Overscheduling Your Kids

I am a parent of three children aged 8, 6, and 6. Like many parents, I struggle with knowing the right balance of activities for them. I don’t want my kids to miss out on opportunities to play sports and participate in activities that will enhance their lives and help them grow as individuals. However, I also don’t want them to become overscheduled kids, to the extent that they get worn out and stressed out.

There is a balance in providing activities for our children and overscheduling them. The tendency for the latter is prevalent these days. Our lives — and the lives of our kids — are increasingly overscheduled and overworked. Thus, we need to understand the dangers of having overscheduled kids and how to prevent this from happening in our own families.

What’s Wrong with Overscheduling Your Kids?

1. Overscheduling Can Burn Out Our Kids

When our kids are on the go and scheduled to the max from a young age, their potential to get burned out before reaching high school is quite high. The New York Times reported some research on burnout and found that burnout with kids relates to their workload, along with their parents’ propensity to experience it.[1] This means that overworked children are more likely to get burned out than others. Similarly, overscheduled parents tend to have overscheduled kids more often than not.

Burnout

When a person is burned out, they feel overwhelmed and exhausted by what others expect them to get done daily. Children who are involved in too many activities with little to no downtime have a high chance of experiencing burnout. When parents place too many expectations on their kids, they also have an increased potential to burn out.

If you get the sense that your child is feeling overworked or overwhelmed by their daily activities, you need to know which ones can be cut back. If they have too many activities outside of school work, for instance, then that is one area that likely needs to be downsized.

An overworked child will present various symptoms like moodiness, irritability, crankiness, despondency, anger, stomach aches, headaches, rebellion, etc. Cutting back their activities will help to relieve their stress and reduce the said burnout signs. If your kid has severe burnout symptoms, though, then professional help from a pediatrician or therapist for children should be sought.

Downtime

Downtime is key to helping relieve burnout. If children don’t have free time during the day to have any rest, they are more likely to become burned out than others. Downtime means unorganized free time to do what they enjoy or relax. Cut back your kids’ extra-curricular activities if they don’t have downtime in their schedule.

Here are more tips on creating downtime for the children: How to Create Downtime for Kids.

2. Overscheduling Kills Playtime and Creativity

Kids need time to be kids. When their schedules are filled every day with activities like organized ballet, soccer, and music lessons, and they only take a break for dinner and bedtime, then they are overscheduled. They need to have free time after school to relax and play. When they don’t have that and proceed from one scheduled activity to the next, they are missing out on playtime.

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Playtime is crucial to child development. If they cannot get enough time to play, then their ability to develop their creativity decreases. The Genius of Play explains that there are six major developmental benefits that children get from playtime:[2]

  • Creativity
  • Social skill development
  • Cognitive development
  • Physical development (i.e., balance, coordination)
  • Communication skills
  • Emotional development

If children don’t have time to play because they are always on-the-go, then they are missing out on the developmental benefits of play.

Children need downtime after school so that they can unwind, play, and decompress. Research from the Journal of Early Childhood Development and Care showed that kids need to play to deal with anxiety, stress, and worry.[3] Playtime provides an outlet for them to manage these emotions in a healthy manner and helps with the development of their creativity.

Children need free time to play every day. Fifteen minutes at recess is not enough. They need time for it after school, at home, outside of the constraints of scheduled activities.

Solution

Ensure that your child has time to play after school. This is especially important for young children who greatly benefit from playing. Limit organized activities so that your child is not scheduled every day and can play after school. If they have an activity every hour, then it doesn’t allow for playtime.

3. Overscheduling Causes Stress and Pressure

When kids are overscheduled because their parents are so intent on having high-performing children, then they will feel stressed. Parental pressure upon a child to do well in academics, music, multiple sports, and religious studies is a reality for many kids. The children scheduled in all of these activities can often feel stress and pressure, especially when they are expected to succeed in all of them.

It is hard enough for kids to be good or succeed at a single activity. For a parent to overschedule their child and expect superior performance in various activities, that is a recipe for a stressed-out child.

Solution

Parents should not schedule kids in multiple activities with the expectation of superior performance in all. They should also consider the child’s interests. If the child is not interested in one activity, then they are likely to feel stressed and pressured to do it.

For example, if Suzy has been taking piano lessons for four years, and she no longer enjoys learning the instrument, then perhaps it is time to take a break. If Suzy is forced to continue with the lessons and daily practices, then she may feel pressured to continue performing simply because her mom wants her to do so. This can lead Suzy to resent her mother for forcing her to keep on doing something that she doesn’t like anymore.

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Let your child help in selecting the activities that they get involved in. Also, put a cap on the number of activities they are doing. If they have a different activity every weekday, then they are likely overscheduled.

Kids need downtime and time to play, too. If they need to do a new activity every day, that downtime is diminished, considering the time at home or outside of the scheduled activities is limited. This limited time is then filled with homework, mealtime, and bedtime prep. Eliminating activities several days a week will allow the child to have some time to play freely. The younger the kid is, the more time they need playtime. As they get older, they can take on more activities; however, under the age of 13, playing daily is a must for children.

4. Healthy Eating Falls by the Wayside

Any parent who’s busy chauffeuring multiple kids to different activities after school knows how tempting fast food can become. Fast food, however, leads to less healthy food choices. French fries and hamburgers — the staple combo in most fast-food joints — cannot help your child thrive nutritionally.

When families are overscheduled, they tend to go for easy and quick meals. When rushed, many of us make poor food choices because we aren’t taking the time to think about a meal’s nutritional value and a balanced diet for our children.

5. Family Mealtimes Become a Thing of the Past

When we are taking our kids to sports and other extra-curricular activities that fall during dinnertime, the family often misses out on sharing a meal at home.

This is true in our own home. There are certain nights of the week that we have practices, and so we either eat together early (if possible) or eat separately, depending on what our schedules allow.

There is so much value in having family dinners. It provides an opportunity for family members to discuss their day, including their work and school activities. It is a time when technology is set aside so that everyone can truly focus on communicating with one another and catching up on what is happening in each other’s lives. When a kid’s activities are scheduled every evening, then that family time at the dining table gets lost. Dinnertime becomes a thing of the past as we overschedule kids and ourselves.

Try learning more about family time here: How to Maximize Family Time? 13 Simple Ways You Can Try Immediately.

Solution

Assess our schedule during the week to ensure that there’s always time for dinner with the family. Make it a point to establish a dinnertime schedule for the evenings that you do not have prior engagements scheduled. Remember: the time that you have with your kids under your roof is fleeting. Before long, they will be grownups and start living on their own. You need not dismiss or minimize the opportunity to bond with your children over meals.

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Having family mealtimes also allows you to make excellent food choices. This way, parents can create balanced and healthy meals and teach their children about the importance of eating good food for their bodies.

How to Turn Things Around?

1. Fix the Displaced Ambitions

Parents with overscheduled kids often mean well. They want their children to succeed, so they give them every chance to make it happen. They sign them up for various lessons, sports, and activities that may help the kids find success in life.

In other cases, the parent probably didn’t get such opportunities when they were young and felt that they missed out on many things. Hence, they provide those missed opportunities to their kids during their own childhood.

Carla is an example of such a parent. Carla always wanted to take dance and ballet classes as a child. She heard her friends talk about dance classes and performances, and they would even bring recital photos to school, showing their beautiful, detailed costumes. Carla wanted to be in those dance classes and learn ballet and have the opportunity to perform in a beautiful costume in front of an audience. Unfortunately, her family could not afford to give her that opportunity.

When Carla gave birth to a baby girl, she had visions of her little one growing big enough to take dance, ballet, and even tap classes someday. She was looking forward to dressing her daughter in dance costumes and watching her take lessons and eventually performing in recitals. When Carla’s daughter Anna was old enough to enroll at a dance class at four years old, she was thrilled. However, after a few months, it became clear that Anna was not enjoying these classes. She would cry before every lesson, begging Carla to let her stay home and not go to class. Her daughter had no interest in learning to dance.

In truth, it happens to many parents. They would enroll their kid in an activity that they wanted to do as a child but never got to try. Unfortunately, a parent’s interest is not always the same as that of their kids’. The child may humor mom or dad for some time and do the activity out of compliance. But if the child does not enjoy it anymore, they will eventually make things clear to their parents.

Parents should listen to their children. If the activity is something that they do not enjoy doing, ask the children what they think they would like to do, and then eliminate activities that they are not into. Similarly, teach them commitment by finishing a program, but don’t enroll them again in the same class if they absolutely do not want to do it.

Let the kids try different activities at a young age. Sometimes they don’t know if they like something until they try it out.

2. Try Clinics of Camps Before Committing

Don’t enroll your child in three sports at the same time to see which one they like or excel at. Doing so will make your kid overscheduled. Instead, you can use the summer break or preseason camps or clinics to try a variety of activities they are interested in.

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As an example, all three of my children said that they wanted to do lacrosse. We had already tried soccer, and it was not successful for two out of three of them. They would rather chase butterflies down the field or play tag than actually participate in their games. Therefore, before committing to lacrosse and spending a great deal of money on their gear, I signed them up for a sample clinic. It was a one-day program that intended to expose children to the sport and see if they would perhaps enjoy playing it. I was surprised to find that the three kids enjoyed lacrosse, so we signed up for the season. It was nice to be able to see them try out the sport in a clinic before committing to an entire season.

Most towns and cities have parks and recreation department. This is often a good place to check for clinics and camps for various activities. Our local department even offers art and dance classes. Most of them meet between two and four times total, so the children can get some exposure to the activity before signing them up at a private facility for a more long-term commitment.

3. Take an Inventory of Your Weekly Activities

Often, we do an activity without reflecting on how much we are already committed to doing each week. Before we commit to any more activities, we must be willing to look at everything that each family member does. Every child’s commitment is another responsibility for the parent as well. Parents must take children to and from each practice, so you need to consider the drive time for any activity.

For instance, if each of my three kids signed up for three different activities each week, I would be running myself ragged. Three activities for three kids means taking them to nine activities during the week. That doesn’t include the games that will likely be scheduled on the weekends. Three activities for every child, therefore, is too much for our family.

If some practices overlap on the schedule, then you need two parents or responsible adults to transport the children to different locations. Before you sign them up for multiple activities, you need to factor downtime, stress levels, and your ability to take them to each activity in the equation.

Consider the following before your kids can commit to various activities:

  • What is the time commitment for the child each week? Do they have enough energy and stamina for the activities? Do they get enough downtime daily to prevent burnout?
  • Is practice time required outside of their scheduled team practices and games?
  • How long is the travel time for you as a parent, along with wait time during practices? Do you have time allowances for these activities in your own schedule?
  • Does the activity time conflict with other activities on the schedule? Will it eliminate family dinners on a regular basis?
  • Does the child really want to do the activity?
  • What is the motivation for signing up for the activity?
  • Is this activity or commitment going to cause a great deal of stress on the child or other family members?

Check out these time-management tips for parents: 10 Time Management Tips Every Busy Parent Needs to Know.

Get The Kids Active and Involved!

Despite everything, it does not mean that you shouldn’t sign your child up for different activities like sports, music, dance, karate, etc. They are all great activities that can help children develop a variety of valuable life skills. The goal is to enroll them in things that they genuinely enjoy and avoid overscheduling kids by not letting them sign up for too many activities at a time.

More Tips for Scheduling Kids’ Activities

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

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