Top 6 things you should never say to your kids

Of course, you wouldn’t tell your child something as harsh as “I wish you were never born.” However other comments that you may think are harmless can do just as much damage to the self-esteem of a child.

Mom scolding child

“The words we say often carry evaluation and judgment,” warns Lauren Goldstein, Ph.D., licensed child psychologist, Strayer University. “Parents may think that correcting their children’s mistakes help them learn, but often what children hear is that they can’t do anything right or that they are not ‘good enough.'”

Here are a few phrases that can deliver a blow to your child’s self-esteem:


I’m busy!

Your kiddo never fails to need your attention when you’re in the middle of something. But dismissing her needs and making her feel undervalued can eventually lead to your youngster getting in the habit of not telling you other important things. While we aren’t advocating that you drop everything, parents shouldn’t say “I’m busy!” Instead, let her know that as soon as you’re done with your task you’ll be happy to help her.


Why did you do that?

Regardless of how baffled you are, asking a child to analyze his own behavior in the moment can lower self-esteem in kids and cause him to shut down. Instead, ask your youngster what he was feeling when he made the decision to do what he was doing. But, try to avoid guessing; your child may simply be answering “yes” in order to appease you.

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I told you so!

While moms know best most of the time, rubbing your child’s nose in his mistakes is sending the message that you’re always right and he’s always wrong. When your child is facing defeat, parents shouldn’t say “I told you so!” Instead, come up with solutions together without undermining his confidence to make decisions on his own.


Wait until Dad gets home!

Even when your kids have you pulling out your hair, be wary of playing good cop/bad cop. You’re not only making Dad the bad guy, you’re also undermining your own authority. Instead, address the situation in the moment, even if you have to tell your child that you and Dad will have to decide on the consequences together later on.


Don’t worry, it’ll be fine.

Your intentions to squelch your child’s fears are honorable, but dismissing her feelings may actually cause her to stress more. Not only will she still battle the original stress, but now it may also add in the fear of letting you down and cause her additional worry. Instead, talk about her feelings — you’ll also be teaching her empathy.

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Because I said so!

No one is questioning your authority here, but refusing to give your kiddo an explanation about why your decision stands dismisses his individualism and ability to figure things out. Now, this isn’t an open invitation for your child to debate your choice, but you’ll at least avoid lowering self-esteem in your kids.

Even when one of these top six things you should never say to your kids should slip through your lips, it doesn’t mean you’ve given up your chances at being parent of the year. “Words are powerful, conveying both meaning and emotion. Carefully choosing the words you use to talk to your children can help them feel loved, respected and self-confident,” says Goldstein. Because in reality, you can still help build self-esteem in your kids without having to be a perfect parent.

More parenting tips

How to fight fair in front of your kids
Teach your teen to be a good loser
Guide to screwing up your kids


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