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Unfortunately, kids don't come with a manual -- imagine how great
that would be! Parents make mistakes all the time, and that's OK. One of
the hardest things to learn as a parent is how to talk to kids. It's
easy to say something that gives them the wrong message or idea -- you
may not even realize it. But we're here to help.Read on for a list of things you shouldn't say to kids. Share them with your nanny so she knows how to talk to your kids too.And for more tips, check out the 21 Best White Lies I Tell My Kids »"I'm Proud of You"Dr. Carl Pickhardt,
psychologist and author of "Surviving Your Child's Adolescence," says
that you shouldn't simply give your child a blanket statement of
encouragement because: "Now the child feels responsible for parental
pride ('How you acted makes me proud to be me.')"Try this instead: "It's better for the parent to place credit where it belongs: 'Good for you,'" he suggests. "Good Job"Love something your child did? Social psychologist and bestselling author Dr. Susan Newman
says, "It is far more helpful in terms of encouragement and building
self-esteem if you focus on how your child achieved whatever he or she
accomplished."Try this instead: Here are some situations and examples of specific feedback she says would be more beneficial: Your child brought home good grades: "You got all As, you must have worked really hard."Your child's team won: "I liked the way you passed the ball so your teammate could score."Your child drew a nice picture: "What made you choose those pretty colors?" or "How did you figure out the design/shape?""Parental
reactions like the above get a child thinking about the process and
working toward a goal," Newman says. "'Great job, what a smart boy, you
are wonderful' and the like become white noise after a while.""You Should Set a Good Example for Your Brother"Older siblings can act out, perhaps out of jealousy due to the extra attention a younger sibling may be receiving.Try this instead: To curb this, Dr. Katharine Kersey,
professor of early childhood education at Old Dominion University in
Norfolk, Va., suggests praising the older sibling and noting how
important he is in his sibling's life: "Your brother looks up to you;
you're such a good role model!" "Wait Until Your Father/Mother Gets Home"Why
are you passing the buck? This may be a familiar refrain in lots of
households, but parents are equals and one shouldn't be designated the
disciplinarian or used as a threat. Stick together as a united team.Try this instead: "You're
grounded for one week because you said a bad word." Don't postpone
penalties for a child's actions -- handle them right then and there. "I Will Never Forgive You"It's
happened to even the best of us -- we react quickly when a child does
something unthinkable. Saying something like this could be truly
damaging to a child. Pickhardt says, "Now the child feels that whatever
has been done will forever be remembered against them."Try this instead:
"It's better for the parent to say: 'What you did was harmful, but we
will find a way to leave this behind us and carry on,'" he recommends.
In the heat of the moment, it's easy to say something rash. Take a deep
breath and wait until you calm down before you speak. "I'm Ashamed of You"Pickhardt
and Kersey both agree on the negativity of this phrase. Pickhardt says
that using this phrase may "make the child feel like a disgrace in the
family." Try this instead: "It's better for the parent to say: 'Although I feel badly about what you did, as always I love who you are," Kersey suggests. "Don't Worry, Everything Will Be OK"Are
your kids concerned about a tragic story they saw on the news? Don't
push aside their concerns -- address them head-on. Dr. Newman notes it's
"better to explain how you as a parent will do everything you can to
keep your child safe." Try this instead: "Mom and Dad are always nearby and we're going to set up a plan in case of emergency." Learn more about How to Talk With Kids About Violence » "Here, I'll Do it"It's easy to get frustrated when your child can't quite finish a project or has trouble completing homework. Try this instead: Kersey aims for a more collaborative approach, suggesting that it would be best to say, "Let's do it together!" "Don't Cry"It's
important to encourage kids to express their emotions -- not bottle
them up. Help them recognize their feelings and deal with them openly
and honestly. Even if the noise is driving you nuts, realize that your
kids are hurting and need to be comforted. Try this instead: "I
know you're sad that Katie moved away. It's OK to cry -- everyone needs
to let out emotions sometimes. Let me give you a hug." "Thinking About Sex Is Bad at Your Age"The
inevitable question of where babies come from is something parents
worry about facing constantly. Don't brush this question off or say
"I'll tell you when you're older." Try this instead:
"Curiosity about sex is normal and I will answer any questions that you
have," says Pickhardt, arguing that it's important for you to be ready
to speak honestly and age-appropriately with your children. If You Eat All Your Dinner, You Can Have Dessert"We've
all heard this one before -- dessert is so good, even adults sometimes
want to jump the main course and head straight for the cake and cookies.
But don't use dessert as a reward -- it sends a bad message that other
types of food aren't as good.Try this instead:
"We need to eat healthy so our bodies will be strong. Your tummy will
tell you when you are full. Would you rather have apples or cherries for
dessert," Kersey suggests.Use these 12 Tricks to Fix a Picky Eater » "If You Don't Clean Your Room, You'll Get a Spanking"This
one is much like number 11, with the typical "if ... then" scenario,
although the threatening aspect of this phrase makes it more volatile.
Avoid phrasing things as threats like "I'll give you something to cry
about."Try this instead: "When your room is
clean, then you may go out to play," Kersey says, emphasizing that you
should turn it into a positive scenario. "If You Take Good Care of Yourself, You'll Stay Healthy"Especially if you have older individuals in the family who are ailing, this can draw many questions from concerned youngsters.Try this instead: "Even healthy people get sick, but health does help people get better after falling sick," Pickhardt says. "Family Finances Aren't Your Business"Concerns
about family finances are constant in many families, and if an argument
between parents ensues, it can be easy for children to overhear and
become concerned.Try this instead: "Finances are how we make and manage money, and when you like, we will teach you what we know," Pickhardt offers. "I'm Disappointed in You"Did
your son fail an exam? Pickhardt says that saying something so blunt
could leave the child feeling "like he/she has lost loving standing in
parental eyes."Try this instead: "I'm surprised and was not expecting this to occur," he suggests. "This is Terrible, the Worst"Constant
repetition of a phrase like this could set your kids on edge and cause
even more concerns. "By saying fearful and emotional words over and
over, very young children may believe that the event you reference has
happened many times," says Newman.Try this instead: "I'm having a hard time believing such a tragedy, but we'll talk about it if you'd like to," she suggests instead. "Come Here, NOW"Dr. Kersey believes it's better to give a child time to respond to your wishes, instead of constantly rushing.Try this instead: "It's almost time to go. Do you want one minute or two," she suggests. "You're in the Way"It can be easy for kids to get underfoot, especially with their constant high-energy.Try this instead:
Kersey advises asking your child to get involved and creating a project
they can easily handle, such as: "Can you help me wrap the packages/tie
the string?" "Because I Said So"This
is probably the most clichéd parenting saying around -- but you should
avoid it. It's a powerful phrase, but it takes all control away from
your kids. You don't always have time to explain your reasoning, but you
should try to give your kids a better context of why you're asking them
to do (or not do) something.Try this instead:
"I know you really want to visit Tommy this afternoon, but I have to do
the laundry -- and I need your help. How about we see him tomorrow?" It
helps your kids know that their feelings matter and you listen to what
they have to say.No matter what you say to a child,
it's important to think before you speak. Understand that youngsters
are naturally curious and active, and speaking to them candidly about
any problems or questions they may have is always your best bet.
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