Providing the tools to help parents gain confidence in their parenting skills so they can create the family life they desire.

16 January 2011

10 Things Not to Say to Your Kids

10 Things Not to Say to Your KidsWhen I think about all of the phrases, anecdotes, and sayings about the power of the spoken word I am reminded of how I changed my way of communicating with children upon learning Play Therapy principles. I realize that using Play Therapy based language is a learned and practiced skill that requires time and effort, so I thought it would be helpful to share ten commonly used phrases parents say to their kids. I will also give the Play Therapy based alternative with a short explanation of why it is more effective.

1. No (running, hitting, yelling, fill in the verb)!

Kids hear the word "no" far too frequently (Read more about that here). You can always rephrase the sentence from a negative to a positive, which will correct the behavior without sounding critical. Train yourself to say what you want them to do instead of what you don't. So, you can say "Walk, please" instead of "No running".

2. Good job!

I have spent a good deal of time on articles on the difference between Praise vs. Encouragement, and this phrase is arguably the most commonly spoken praise children hear. Train yourself to respond with "You did it!" or "You got it!" or "You figured it out!". Notice the common element is starting with the word "you" and then acknowledging what they worked at, rather than what you think about it.

3. Don't argue with me.

Children are programmed to question, analyze and wonder about situations. This can sometimes present itself in an argumentative manner, but this is actually a normal part of development. Instead of cutting off the conversation, you can say, "I know you want my answer to be different, but it will not change". You can also train yourself to make sure the child fully understands your response, with "I just told you my answer. Do you have a question about it?" This allows the child to present their opinion or get clarification. Either way, the child is allowed to express their thoughts or concerns and feel validated without an argument.

4. Wait until your Dad/Mom/other person finds out about this.

This does two things. First, it creates anxiety and fear in the child, especially of the person who you are going to tell about whatever happened. Second, it ignores your responsibility to deal with the issue at hand and passes it to someone else. By the time a child has gotten in trouble for something, they already feel guilty, sorry and embarrassed about it. Threatening to tell someone else rubs salt in the wound. Choose whether the other person really needs to know about the issue, and if yes, let the child decide who will tell them. "Do you choose to tell (Mom) what happened, or choose for me to tell her with you there to make sure that I explain it correctly?" This gives the child respect and responsibility for their actions.

5. If you do that one more time...

I can't tell you the number of times I hear that phrase when around other parents, even though it is highly ineffective. First, you are threatening a child, which makes them fearful of you. Second, the threat is usually not something that is feasible to do (we are going home, you are going straight to bed, you don't get dinner, you are grounded for a week, etc.) What we say in frustration is not only impractical but easily forgettable. Then we contradict our credibility. You can train yourself to be clear and concise, using choices. "If you choose to (continue that behavior), you choose to (receive whatever consequence has already been established as a punishment)". You might say, "Erin, if you choose to poke your sister again, you choose to not watch TV for the rest of the day". This clearly communicates the expectation and the consequence, without a threat.

6. You are doing that the wrong way.

Parents tend to want control all of the time, and it takes work to allow kids to have freedom to do what they choose. Of course, there will be times when a task must be completed in a certain fashion (homework, etc.). However, many times we force kids to do something the "right way", when it could have been done in several ways. If a child is coloring the grass purple, it is easy to tell them it must be green. A kid can sit down on a chair facing the back, and we make them turn around. Train yourself to acknowledge their behavior without a judgment, such as "You chose to sit the other way on the chair" or "You colored the grass purple instead". This gives them the freedom to be creative and discover things without expectations.

7. That is what happens when you...

We often try to teach lesson to kids about life at the most inappropriate times. If a child gets hurt because they were doing something dangerous or inappropriate, they already learned their lesson. It is wasted words to try to express a rule when a child is upset, as they focus on one thing at a time. Instead, train yourself to say, "You realized that you jumped off the chair and got hurt when you landed on the ground", rather than, "See, that is what happens when you jump off the chair". The former acknowledges that the child already figured out the problem, but is still comforting.

8. You can't/Don't do that.

When redirecting behavior, it is difficult to know how to phrase things in the best manner. Telling a child that they can't do something makes them prove that they can, by telling you or showing you that it is in fact possible. Telling a kid to not do something makes them want to argue or rebel. Train yourself to explain the reason behind your statement. "That is not safe" or "Your skin is not for coloring on" is specific and helps them learn why things are off limits, rather than just that they are.

9. We are (whatever the child doesn't want to do at that moment), OKAY?

In an attempt to be kind and loving to children, parents tend to ask kids for their approval. I understand the rationale behind it, but I believe it becomes a habit when trying to convince a child to comply. Parents will often say, "We are leaving the playground now and we'll come back again, okay?" The reality is that asking your child if it is okay sets you up for an argument when the child says no. You already know that he doesn't want to leave, or you wouldn't be negotiating with him. Train yourself to state things in sentence form, while acknowledging the child's feelings. "Kevin, I know you want to stay and play, but it is time to go. We can come back another day". This helps the child feel understood, but still communicates that leaving is non-negotiable.

10. You are making me really mad right now.

When I was a child and fought with my younger brother, I would complain to my mom that he made me mad about something. She would (and still does) respond with "No one can make you feel anything. You choose to get mad." At the time, I hated that phrase. However, it is very true. Parents tend to let their children control their emotions, when it is the parent who is ultimately responsible for how they feel. It is also important for kids to understand that they choose what they feel, and they are not creating emotions in you. Train yourself to say, "I need a break right now because I am getting upset" or "I am angry right now". You can communicate your feelings to your children without placing the burden of cause on them.

Retraining your way of speaking will take time and energy, but can be done. I would encourage you to do it one step at a time, and feel proud when you hear yourself respond differently. It will not happen overnight, as I liken it to learning a new language, but it can happen with practice!

  • Eileen Geiger

    This is a great post, Brenna! There are so many truths in it and it really echoes so many things that I agree with. Happy New Year to you and I hope to keep reading and gaining insight from you.

  • Cary Waulk

    Excellent information for parents, grandparents and all who work and care for our little ones. Thanks, Brenna, for keeping us on track.

  • Natalie Boyack

    I’m so happy to have found your site. I get so frustrated with myself as a parent sometimes; I find that I often lack the communicative and disciplinary tools I know I need, to keep healthy, loving relationships with my children. I do have moments where I’m in the right energy and I’m successful in my efforts, and I want more of that! Thank you for sharing your knowledge! I look forward to learning more of this “language” for parental success!!

  • ksenia

    Very good. Seems like we all know it already, just somehow keep forgeting.

    • María José

      Excelente! Especialmente el tema de la negociación. Creo que somos una generación de padres que ha exagerado la negociación al punto de dejar elegir todo a los hijos y de no enseñarles a asumir sus responsabilidades. Saludos

  • Warren Pettitt

    I enjoyed reading your 10 helps. I can not agree more with #7, I think I am a pro at trying to teach important points at inappropriate times. You helped me think through “its not only what I say, but when I say it”.


    • brenna

      I believe we all wish we could handle things appropriately every time, but we are human. My goal is to challenge thinking and provide necessary tools to respond differently – I am glad that you found it helpful!

  • Kristen Chapman

    I like the article but disagree about number 10. People can create feelings in others whether it is good or bad feelings it is the way you choose to handle the feelings that you have control over.

    • asra

      Dear Brenna , It is a really practical post for building self esteem in kids age 3-7 – I think i need some more feed back from you for children with challenging behavior.

  • Paula Bosh

    I think your list of 10 things is great, but at the risk of seeming argumentative, I am curious about what prompted writing it. I grew up in the 60’s & 70’s, and heard at least 5 of the 10 items repeatedly and often. I don’t look back with bitterness or regret, and actually am fairly accomplished. I would not say I have done well BECAUSE of being told “don’t run”, or BECAUSE my mother would say “wait till your dad gets home”, but it doesn’t seem like those things really slowed me down either. Are you seeing these types of phrases being used more frequently? Or are you seeing these phrases being used to the exclusion of anything positive? Is there something different going on “today” than was happening 40 years ago? Or am I very naive in thinking that most of us back then were just fairly unaffected? As I said, I think this list is fabulous, and I like your emphasis on parents training themselves; to me, it seems that what you are really talking about is treating our children with respect and dignity.

    • brenna

      You are correct in saying that my focus is on respect, honesty and dignity. I feel that far too often kids are treated inappropriately when parents take liberties with the justification that “they are only kids”. As far as what prompted me writing it – I hear parents saying things that I believe if they were to think about the words they use or the implications those words have on a child, they would choose to say different things. Your parents were likely very typical in what they said and did, and it obviously was not detrimental to you. I wonder if they would look back and wish they would have said things differently or wished they knew of different ways to handle things at the time. It is really about empowering and equipping yourself to be the best parent you can be. Thanks for your thoughts.

  • Beatrice Barber

    I was looking for topics on child counseling and I came across your site. I am studying Christian Counseling and I was writing a research paper on child counseling. This is very interesting to look at different point-of-views of counseling children. When I raised my four children it was not like I see my children raising their children today. Time has changed and we as people have also changed. People need to read your counseling information, because it was eye opening to me. Thank you for this information. Beatrice Barber

      • brenna

        Yes! It is often a balance of making sure both yours and her needs are met. You should be proud that you figured out an effective solution.

    • brenna

      This goes back to a respect issue. If you respect your child, you acknowledge what they are feeling, and then share your own thoughts and feelings. For example, “I know you wish I would say yes, but I have to say no because I do not think that is safe”, etc. One that bothers me is when parents say, “I don’t care that you don’t want to get ready”. Wait until the kid starts saying, “I don’t care what you say, Mommy”!

      • Kimberly

        Yes! I am finding myself frequently having this same conversation with friends who demand respect from their children. Where are they to earn it? You teach your children to RESPECT YOU by RESPECTING THEM! Respecting them is not the same as being too permissive or giving. It is about teaching boundaries and actions and consequences. Good article.

  • Shelley in Southern Illiniois

    I read or heard of some research that said to not tell kids they did a good job it was really easy for them, but to instead say, “I can tell you really worked hard on that.” In the study, they said good job to half the kids after an easy test and the hard work phrase to the other half.

    The good job kids who then took a hard test shut down and didn’t complete-almost all of them. It was a major shift from the first to the second test. The hard work kids, struggled with the test and completed it with much better scores.

    This result was not dependent on the child’s ability, but completely on whether the testers said good job or you worked hard. Amazing the impact a few words can have on a child.

    • brenna

      This study supports what play therapy has been teaching for years. It is not about ability, it is about what they child believes about their own self-worth and capability. Thanks for sharing.

  • Alissa

    I think that, given the content, a better title for this would have been “10 ways to interact better with your kids.” (these are really good suggestions but parents get tired of and overwhelmed by people saying “don’t do ______ to/with/for your kids” too!)

    After all, don’t most humans respond better to positive suggestions over negative ones? :)

    • brenna

      While I agree that the positive spin would have aligned with what I am encouraging, I would not have been able to use the phrases that most parents use as the example if it was ways to better interact. I think realizing that these are helpful ways to interact is the purpose, even if framed in what not to say!

      • Catherine

        I agree with Alissa. I read the article, agreed with it (while feeling like a crappy parent as I was reminded of my shortcomings), and forwarded it to my husband. He immediately noticed that your title directly contradicts point #1.

        Even as a parent who already agrees with your points made, I believe that a different approach may help parents feel inspired and empowered, rather than feel like terrible parents.

        Alissa did not imply that you shouldn’t use those common phrases, she just suggested it could have been done better without the headline “what not to do”.

        Since you’ve replied already that you stand by your original choice, please give me some insight on when you think #1 stops becoming important. I find that applying all of the parenting techniques I’ve picked up along the years has helped me improve my marriage, my professional relationships, and even helped me get along more with my mother.

  • May

    Of course you have to watch every word you say to your children..oh wait, you also have to be politically correct at all times when addressing your children. Why? Because you have to help them parent themselves You can’t do it all by yourself! You need to read a book and find out how to speak to the child – and, please, do not ever, ever speak to your child in any kind of frustrating tone…they must never know that people can be frustrated or angry. That is very bad. Please always use a sing-song voice. And be in control of what you feel and what you say at every single moment. Better yet! If your child behaves in an unacceptable manner, ask their permission to wait a moment while you consult a book to see how to handle it.

    • brenna

      This article is not meant to imply that parents should be catering to their kids to the exclusion of appropriate parenting. It is a list of things that can be said or handled differently to get better results. After all, every parent wants tools to make them effective and help them raise happy kids.

      • May

        Brenna – my last message..promise! First, let me tell you that I am the single mother of a 40 year old son..a good son that I raised on my own. Was I a perfect mother? Nope. Would I change some things if I could? Sure. But I have never believed that it is a parent’s responsibility to make their kids happy. In fact, I think believing that is what has led to very unhappy children who are unable to do anything for themselves – and parents who constantly feel inadequate and have no belief in themselves because they are not doing what articles like this tell them they “should” be doing.

      • May

        Brenna – my last message..promise! First, let me tell you that I am the single mother of a 40 year old son..a good son that I raised on my own. Was I a perfect mother? Nope. Would I change some things if I could? Sure. But I have never believed that it is a parent’s responsibility to make their kids happy. In fact, I think believing that is what has led to very unhappy children who are unable to do anything for themselves – and parents who constantly feel inadequate and have no belief in themselves because they are not doing what articles like this tell them they “should” be doing.

  • Katherine

    You did a terrific job of giving examples of what you mean. Too often, parenting sites/persons imparting information just state what should or should not be going on or what to do but do not give examples of how to apply the method. Applications are powerful. Thank you.

  • Debbie

    The other one that frustrates me so is “you know better than that!” My son is 4. At any given moment it’s very possible that no, he doesn’t know better than to not jump off the couch or run too close to the table. His little mind is focused on something else.
    I try to turn it into “remember that we don’t jump off the couch” or something like that, but I don’t know if there’s a better way to phrase it. Or how to get the other adults in the house to think about the way they say these things!

  • Brittany

    I liked most of these suggestions, having heard most of these phrases to excess growing up the 70’s. But have you seen the Modern Family where Lily keeps turning the light switches off and on, driving Claire crazy? Cam refuses to use the word “No” until she’s ready to flip the switch on the garbage disposal when his hand is stuck in it! Just as my parents may have gone too far in one direction, parents of today seem to me to sometimes be over-correcting.

    • brenna

      “People are not for hitting”

    • mightydoll

      I’ve found “when you choose” language useful for physical violence, because there’s another factor at play there – the other person’s reaction. “when you choose to hit Tommy, you choose for your playdate to be over”

      also teaching empathy: “Tommy feels really sad that you hit him and he doesn’t want to play any more”

      alternately, for slightly older kids: “hitting hurts and people don’t like to cooperate with someone who hurts them. What’s another way we can express ourselves?”

  • Rachel Ramey

    Good stuff! I have found, though, that #1 usually requires a modification the first few times. For instance, if I just say, “walk, please,” they don’t understand that I mean instead of running. It works better to say both the first few times (“Please don’t run; walk.”) and then they know what I’m implying to not do when I transition to “Walk, please!”

      • Katie

        “respect is taught through discipline and love not by negotiating with kids….”I’m the parent and I get to make the rules because I say so”

        Exactly! You could even tell them, “When you grow up, you can make your own rules.”

        • kennadog

          You apparently didn’t read the places where she explicitly says not to sound like things are open for negotiation.

    • Skye Strong

      As an early childhood educator I can tell you that almost all of the things she has written about above are backed by research in child development, psychology, behaviour etc.. and if you want to know more about how punishment (i.e. spanking) is detrimental to children’s development that I would recommend looking into Dr. Joan Durrant’s many publications on her research on physical punishment. There is a difference between punitive disciplinary style, and a positive guidance approach to child care and parenting and the latter has been proven to be much more effective, which is the main point that I think this article was meant to portray. Education is a great tool.

      • S. W.

        oh please I was popped on the hand and spanked (very rarely) as a child and I turned out just fine. I am a respectful, humble person who has graduated college and getting ready to go back for my masters. If people would spank their children when appropriate maybe we wouldn’t have so many children with horrible attitudes and actually abusing their parents. smh children are not as fragile as people think they are.

        • MT

          If you have to tell someone you’re humble, you aren’t. And spanking IS detrimental to psychological development. There has been TONS of research done over the last 60 years that makes this conclusive. A little research goes a long way. Just because you were hit and “turned out fine” doesn’t mean millions of kids are as resilient as you. And refraining from hitting your children, doesn’t mean you are refraining from disciplining them. It means you’ve found better, more-effective, less-archaic, methods of parenting.

      • MT

        Actually… nearly 90% of violent offenders WERE spanked as children, and very few of them claim it was abusive. Violent offenders usually suffer from various traumas early in life (death or abuse of some sort) as well as a lack of empathetic adult interaction: meaning their parents would “discipline” with a hit and that was pretty much their primary interaction after that.

      • MT

        Ah, a bible literalist. You do know that the “rod” in the “spare the rod, spoil the child” mantra is referring to the old, colloqiual term for the staff that shepherds used to guide their flock. These staffs were not used for hitting.

      • MT

        Psychologically speaking, it’s more likely that your success was achieved in SPITE of your rough discipline as a child, not BECAUSE of it.

    • Maia Couch

      Saying, “Don’t do that” doesn’t teach your child why they shouldn’t do it. It’s simply more effective to tell them why they shouldn’t do it. My mother used to say to me, “Don’t climb that tree it makes me nervous.” I would never listen, I would just keep climbing the tree. Climbing the tree was fun, why should I stop? If she had said, “You could hurt yourself climbing that tree.” I would have understood not only why it made her nervous but why it should make me nervous.

      And if that didn’t work she could have said, “If you choose to keep climbing that tree then you choose to not play outside anymore.” And then if I kept doing she could pull me down and drag me inside.

      You don’t have to be mean to your child to be assertive.

      • Katie

        I have to correct you on that one. Most kids know already when and why they shouldn’t do something; they just don’t care to follow the rules because they want to do that thing. It is more than acceptable to say “Stop/No/Don’t do that. You are going to hurt yourself/you are going to break that.” As a parent, YOU are the authority. Your kids need to know that they have to listen to you. While I agree that you shouldn’t just say “Don’t do that,” pairing it with a reason is okay. If they get used to hearing no with a reason, you should be able to just say no and your child will think “when she says no it usually means something bad could happen”.

        I don’t believe in giving 3rd and 4th chances either. It’s stupid. My kid needs to know, when I say to stop it means stop now! If your child is used to you always giving a long explanation, they will not respond to a one word prompt. When you give a reason 100% of the time, you are teaching your child that they don’t have to listen to you (even if you say no) if you don’t give a reason.

        Think about this: You’re walking out of a store and your child is excited and starts to dart across the way to the car, not seeing the car flying up to him. You have two choices. Quickly yell “STOP!” or calmly say “If you choose to run into the road, you choose to get hit by a car”. If your child isn’t accustomed to hearing things like No or Stop, they are going to get hit. Where as when I was a child I listened to my parents regardless of if they gave an explanation because I had already figured out there was a reason when they told me no.

    • Jimmie Lee DiIanni

      The kind of parenting that has lead to disciplinary problems are parents who don’t care about their children.
      If you haven’t tried any of these techniques how can you say they have lead to problems? I see the difference in the way my kids respond to me when i use techniques like this. They are more willing to obey rather than being defiant and closed off.
      If i spank my two year old he could careless about it, but if i gently explain (on his level of understanding) he complies. Its quite simple actually.

    • DeAnna

      My gosh, if you only knew how much this has helped me and my child after so many years of distress and misery, you would not be so quick to judge. It may not be suitable for your home, in your opinion, but it sure has been a blessing in mine.

    • rachy

      Clearly no one on this website should be parents. Y’all are too busy acting like children yourselves with your bickering. Use this time to spend with your kids how you want! I was abandoned by both of my parents. Use this time your spending arguing to love your kids. :)

    • TM

      It’s actually 100% accurate.

      You notice nuances in speech as well. That’s why you decided to phrase your comment “yeah…. this is ridiculous,” rather than any other way. You decided that ellipses and the word “ridiculous” would most accurately (at the time) illustrate your point. You had a myriad of other words and phrases at your disposal, but you chose the ellipses and “ridiculous.”

    • Aaron Lynch

      It’s not like ‘good job’ is ‘bad’ but it is absolutely correct not to fall into a pattern of behaviour where you say the same thing in a rote manner out of habbit and actually be mindful of what we are saying to children – because they do listen

    • Maia Couch

      The article gives clear examples and reasons as to why these things aren’t appropriate ways to handle a child’s behavior. The simple fact of the matter is parenting has a goal. As you’ve demonstrated that goal is to raise a respectful child, among other things. The point of the article is to point out that these 10 phrases are simply inefficient for achieving that goal.

      A child needs to know when they have upset you. Yes, this is true. But when you saying “YOU are making me angry right now.” You aren’t teaching the child the difference between correct and incorrect behavior. You are teaching them that there is something wrong with them. That they make you angry. Saying, “When you do that it makes me angry” helps focus the negativity on the action that you don’t like rather than your child.

      These parenting tips do prepare your child for the real world. What doesn’t prepare you child is destroying their self-esteem and not communicating to them clearly. I don’t see why this is rocket science: if you communicate more clearly with your kids then your kids will understand you better and that will better enable them to behave desirably.

    • Skye Strong

      Modelling is the best form of teaching. It is important to think about the message that all of our actions and verbalizations send to children. They internalize everything, so it is so important that the messages we are sending when we say we are upset or a behaviour is not acceptable reflect the behaviour itself and not the child. So many of the things our children do are reflections of what we do as adults and we don’t even realize it until we really stop to look.

    • Jimmie Lee DiIanni

      Without actually trying these tips, how could you say that this is wrong? I know for a fact there is a difference in the way my child responds to me when i use techniques like this. They actually listen and are more willing rather than recoiling or becoming defiant. Kids are people too.
      A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

    • Justin Staska

      My daughter was bullied relentlessly at the beginning of her first grade year. She would come home crying and devastated. I would hug her and tell her how wonderful she was and that I was sorry she was hurting….BUT then, we would dissect each bullied moments of the day. I helped her learn to choose different behaviors: such as – when the boy stomped on your hand, instead of falling in heap on the floor and screaming (which is perfectly understandable) you need to stand up, look him straight in the eye and say with a firm, calm voice “you just stomped on my hand, don’t EVER do that to me again”. That boy didn’t touch her again for the rest of the year. and to choose different thoughts: when the girls told her she was stupid or ugly, instead of crying hysterically or screaming bad names back at them, she had to tell herself right away that “they are wrong. I am smart. I have all A’s. I can read chapter books. I know I’m smart,” or “whatever, I know I’m beautiful. My mom did my hair really cute today.”….you get the idea. The second half of that year was completely different for her and now that she is in 4th grade there is a horrible girl bully in her class, I asked her if she was ever bullied – she smiled up at me and said “No, Angelic doesn’t dare bully anyone when I’m around.” Not only has she learned to not let others hurt her that aren’t worth it, she is the class protector.

      I completely understand what you are saying, I just thought I’d give a different perspective:)


      • Rebecca Henrich

        As an elementary teacher, I LOVE that you taught your daughter to stand up to bullies appropriately. We need parents like you, Tonya!

  • bw

    I think that these are interesting points for parents who have the time to think about how they are addressing their kids, even parents who have the time to be with their kids. However, any kid who is lucky enough to have a parent who would consider this article is going to be fine, all of the other kids should be our worry.

    • Skye Strong

      Perhaps people who don’t have time for thoughtful, consistent and positive parenting should rethink their decision to have kids at all. Children do not choose to be born, adults choose to bring them into their lives and those who do should be prepared to give them the best of themselves (which is what all children deserve!)

  • Cindy Herington

    Good points!
    #1 – my mother always said, “Don’t say ‘no’ when you can say ‘yes.’ “Yes, you can have some ice cream after dinner” instead of “No, you can’t have ice cream.”

    One of my favorite learning styles educators, Cynthia Ulrich Tobias, says that with *strong-willed* children it’s not really a negotiation to add an “okay?” to the end of a command. (#9) Rather, it’s bypassing the overriding nature of the battle of wills in a friendlier way. The tone of your voice lets them know you’re not flexing; the “okay?” tacked on the end lets them know that they have a choice (with consequences, of course, as in #5).

    One of the worst things I’ve seen parents do to young children having fun is not giving them warning. It doesn’t matter if you add an “okay” on the end or not – to suddenly say “We’re leaving the playground” is devastating to them. “We’re leaving the playground in 10 minutes” or “Ten more trips down the slide and then we need to go” is much easier for them to adapt to.

    • Katie

      Wow, and your first sentence is why children in America are obese. Why say no if you could say yes? How about because you are wiser than they are and know giving them ice cream every night when they ask is setting them up to have health/weight issues! It is ok to nicely tell your child “Not tonight. You had ice cream last night. Here’s an orange.”

      Or how about your child asking you if they can ride their bike alone to their friend’s house? Why say no when you can say yes? Because it’s dangerous and they could be hurt by someone and you’d never know.

      It seems as if most of the people on here think that giving kids everything they want and coddling them will somehow make them better. No, it doesn’t. You spare their feelings but you’re setting yourself up to be one of those parents who is forced to explain every decision you make and for your kids to know that you will. Have fun with that when they get to be teenagers and you’re having to explain yourself to them. YOU are the parent! Stop ruining your children.

      • kennadog

        Good grief. She didn’t say that the child could have ice cream every night. It has nothing to do with obesity, anyway. We had some kind of dessert every night when I was growing up. It came after a well-balanced dinner of reasonably-sized portions.

        The desserts were also reasonably portioned and not over-elaborate. It might be as simple as jello with sliced bananas and a spoonful of whipped cream. No one in my household grew up to be obese, because of desserts. Of course, meals were home-cooked and we rarely ate out.

      • Melanie

        Oh jeeze, way to blow her comment out of proportion. This article has suggestions to get your young kids to think critically about their actions while still remaining the authority and following through on decisions, finding different ways of navigating around negativity in parenting. That way when they get to be teenagers they can think “Yeah if I make that bad decision, I understand something bad will happen to me.” and then choose not to. My husband’s mother consistently used the word “choose” while raising him. “if you choose to do x, then you choose to spend the rest of the night in your room” instead of “Stop that now” or “No you don’t”. I’ve known him my whole life. He is an empathetic, intelligent and disciplined adult that refrained from making the same mistakes as other teenagers and pushed back against peer pressure. You even say yourself giving your kid an option of an orange is better than just saying no.

      • Suzette

        LOL! to Katie’s comment “Wow, and your first sentence is why children in America are obese. Why
        say no if you could say yes? How about because you are wiser than they
        are and know giving them ice cream every night when they ask is setting
        them up to have health/weight issues! It is ok to nicely tell your child
        “Not tonight. You had ice cream last night. Here’s an orange.” She either needs a serious prescription glass or just filled her head with too much ice cream. Oh… wait was it Michelle( FLOTUS) that leave that comment. BWAHAHAHA. Thanks for the laugh Katie or Michelle whoever you are. Love my ice cream and no I am not obese nor my children’s.

  • Kendall Grafiada

    I appreciate this article. I think that she makes excellent, educated points. I am an educator and have read many books agreeing with them. Frankly, I am disappointed by the negative responses since we always have room to improve as parents. Saying good job creates children who do good things for approval, rather for their own gain and improvement. You are passing judgement on their work. Telling a child why something isn’t okay rather than saying no, helps children understand why the behavior needs to be stopped and prevents it from happening again. Understanding these points doesn’t weaken children, it strengthens them and helps them become independent thinkers and well-behaved children. There is nothing wrong with becoming a more informed parent.

  • danni monai

    These “rules” are telling parents it’s ok to baby their children. If a child doesn’t learn how to control themselves and follow rules when they’re younger then they’ll have a hard time when they move out, get a job, and try to start a life. If you coddle them and constantly have to build there confidence up they’ll expect others to do the same. If they don’t learn to take responsibility and don’t get told “no” they’ll expect handouts and won’t work for what they want. We’re being too soft on children these days.

  • Erin Kay Tietz

    I don’t understand how some feel that this article encourages “babying” or coddling of children. For one, kids DO need some coddling sometimes. And for two, boundaries are still being set, they are only being worded differently to become more effective. The author never stated that you shouldn’t tell your kids no, only that you should try going about it differently.

    To the naysayers, try it out on your own kids. Put it to the test. See what happens. If it doesn’t work for you, then criticize these tips to your heart’s content. Whenever I take an extra moment to explain why my children can’t do something, they are much more compliant with the situation. Telling them simply, “No don’t do that,” only ends up with me repeating it several more times, getting frustrated, and in many cases, becoming angry.

    And as much as some of you are disagreeing on the bit about “good job,” try telling your child what THEY themselves specifically did that was awesome instead and watch their faces light up. It’s not bad to just say good job I don’t think, but taking that extra time to make them feel special does great things for their self esteem.

    But then again, we don’t want to raise more spoiled, coddled children now, do we?

    The whole point of this article is to promote clearer communication between parents and their children. Which will in turn allow children to learn clear communication and respect as well.

  • Jude I⚡caяiot

    Stuff like this is why kids think they run their parents.

    • Skye Strong

      and is the goal of being parent simply to “run” your kids? These strategies teach children boundaries, respect, and consequences in positive ways. If you want children to be respectful, they also need to be shown respect. If you can do something in a positive way rather than a negative way and the goal is the same, why wouldn’t you choose the positive way??

      • Jude I⚡caяiot

        No, the goal of being a parent is to help guide somebody through life. However, these days, many parent seem to lack authority. When I read entire blogs full of comments and government officials citing letters they received, all saying that HAPPY MEALS NEED TO BE BANNED because PARENTS JUST CAN’T SAY `NO` to their kids, this is a problem.

      • Jude I⚡caяiot

        No, the goal of being a parent is to help guide somebody through life. However, these days, many parent seem to lack authority. When I read entire blogs full of comments and government officials citing letters they received, all saying that HAPPY MEALS NEED TO BE BANNED because PARENTS JUST CAN’T SAY `NO` to their kids, this is a problem.

        • Rebecca Henrich

          Yes, that’s a problem, but guess what? The article pointed out simple, effective, kind ways to allow children to understand how consequences work. If you say “you can choose to sit politely at the dinner table, or you can choose to go to your room,” it’s then up to the parents to follow-through. The technique is effective if the parents stick to it. You may have to drag your kicking and screaming child to their bedroom after they throw their peas, but you can do it calmly and without flying into a rage AND without just giving in. Parental follow-through–authority, you might say–is the key to the success of these suggestions (which is, I might add, all they are–suggestions).

      • Katie

        Thank you, Jude.

        I am an early preschool/special ed teacher and I agree that parents don’t know how to say ‘no’. Good example: One of my students last year was 2 years old and only ate chicken strips from Sonic… every flippin day! Why/ Because her mother allowed this. She thought her kid would starve if she didn’t go to Sonic because she “refused” to eat anything else. She was 2!! Come on, people! You don’t need to “run” your kids like Skye is suggesting, but you need to have authority and I completely agree that the role of parents is to guide and teach them – not to bend to their every wish.

  • Gwen Grundman

    can you add a print function?!

  • Justin Staska

    I am amazed at all of the negative comments here. This isn’t just her personal beliefs, there is a ton of research that proves that this way of talking to children is just more effective. These guidelines are not necessarily the difference between good parents and bad, but they are the difference between MORE EFFECTIVE parenting and not.

    Nothing in these suggestions leads a child to disobey you or disrespect others. In fact, I believe it teaches the exact opposite. By taking responsibility for our own feelings as adults teaches our children to do the same. My child disobeying me should not “make me angry”. The behavior is simply unacceptable and me throwing my emotions into teaching that principle just makes her learn that one: it’s her fault when I get mad and two: When she gets mad it must be someone else’s fault. Not to mention the obvious fact that the emotion will completely overshadow the lesson you are trying to teach. This is not why the kids of today are turning out so unprepared for the world. Lazy and prideful parents who think they know what they are doing and would rather yell instead of learning to discipline themselves to become more effective parents are the biggest problems that I see.

    Good parenting does not come naturally despite what people want to believe. If being a parent is more reactionary for you than thoughtful and deliberate, you are not being the parent you could be.


    • MT

      Well stated! Excellent points!

  • Shirley Doitch

    absolutely fantastic article. i could not agree with you more. good for you for putting these ideas in such an eloquent and effective article. bravo!

  • Shirley Doitch

    absolutely fantastic article. i could not agree with you more. good for you for putting these ideas in such an eloquent and effective article. bravo!

  • Guest

    Why is “babying” children being considered a bad thing? Children aren’t actually tiny adults, they’re still children. They’re not your employees trying to steal money from your business.

  • Guest

    Why is “babying” children being considered a bad thing? Children aren’t actually tiny adults, they’re still children. They’re not your employees trying to steal money from your business.

  • Janelle

    I was raised using all the “negative words/phrases” and I stuck to them with my kids. But I truly believe this positive way is much much better.
    I even do all the “wrong things” with my kids! But as time passed and I noticed saying no constantly and spankings were not working , I tried different approaches. And guess what they are working much better! My kids listened to me and respectedwhat I had to say!
    Admit it! All the parents who are saying this article is BS, are yelling at their kids and kids don’t listen/understand. It just makes perfect sense.. maybe the old-fashioned way is why we have behavior problems, self-esteem issues, and problems. Think about it, really. Or at least try to learn why every educated person and scientific study supports this.

  • Gal from Canada

    Mostly I think you are really, really wrong. 1. In my family we tell the children “no hitting, no kicking, no punching, no screaming, no scratching, no fish hooking and no biting” every time it seems the cousins or siblings are about to get out of hand, it works like a charm because they are reminded what is expected of them. 2. All people, children and adults alike, like to be praised. It makes you feel good and want to keep trying. Encouragement is just another word for praise. 3. There is a massive difference between arguing and questioning/analyzing. I think that’s pretty much ’nuff said but for the sake of example parent: “You are being rude and disrespectful, because of that you are getting sent to your room” kid: “why should I have to? Why should I listen to you?” vs. parent: “go to your room!” kid: “why? why do I have to?” NOT the same thing! 4. Agreed, never show your children that you are too weak to teach/raise/discipline them. 5. Provide a doable and reasonable consequence and follow through and this “threat” is all good! 6. Agreed, that’s a bit rude. 7. I think it’s obvious that if your child is super upset this message won’t get through so wait until things have calmed down and then express “did you notice what happened when you did_____”. 8. Depends on how you word it. “you can’t colour on yourself without Mama making you take a bath right away to wash that all off” shows the futility of the situation should they do it again, colouring on oneself = have the fun interrupted to take a bath. 9. Agreed, don’t ask questions that you might not want the answer too, this applies to all relationships. 10. Semi-agreed, behaviour can make a person feel a certain way and since we are all responsible for our own behaviour then one would be lead to believe that we can affect each others emotions (if we are 100% responsible for how we feel then explain how bullying works to me please!) but it can be better addressed. “Your fillintheblankbehaviour is really frustrating me right now, I need you to either stop this behaviour or go do it elsewhere (why would I have to leave if I’m not the one misbehaving) and come back when you are ready to behave in a way that is acceptable to our house rules”. Now if I’m losing my patience just because I’m in a bad mood and my child’s behaviour is fine, then agreed, I should be the one to leave.

  • Erin Hewitt

    I do not understand why people are taking this article so personally. This is not singling out any individual person, nor is it saying if you do not do these things, you are a bad parent. It’s is a post about other ways to speak to your children that COULD help your child better understand you. I this all these tips are wonderful and am going to get better about re-phrasing some of the things I say to my son.
    No where in this article does it tell parents to let their children run around, doing as they please. It also never tells you to ask your child for permission, because let’s be honest, you are the parent and will do what you need to do or what your feel is best. But instead of telling your child “NO! STOP RUNNING!”, you can say, “we walk when we are in the house”. This article also never says that you cannot say these things, and being human, there will be times when we all say things that we probably shouldn’t to our child, but these guidelines are useful when it comes to speaking to your child on a daily basis.

  • Melissa

    Day One… Already working!

  • Sheila

    Amen! Karen. Today’s society makes parents look like idiots, already. We grew up respecting our parents because they gave us boundaries and consequences when we passed those boundaries. We raised our children the same way. Not long ago my oldest (now 26) thanked me for the way I raised him. He had witnessed several parents whose way of making their children behave was to hand them a smart phone with games or a movie on it. There were no “time outs” in our family. Each child responded differently to discipline. When a look worked on one, taking away a privilege worked on the other. AND none of them ever whined because they got a spanking when it was needed! Mainly because they knew the consequence of their actions. Today’s parents need to learn how to be parents instead of trying to make up for not being at home with their children by giving them everything they want to keep them “friends” with them. YOU ARE NOT YOUR CHILD’S FRIEND! Be the parent they want and need. They’ll thank you some day.

    • MT

      I most certainly don’t thank my parents for spanking me. And respect is earned, it isn’t demanded. A child who is respected from birth, will respect. It’s literally impossible for a child to equate a spanking with being respected. When my parents spanked me, it wasn’t because the were trying to teach me a valuable lesson (aside from, “you angered me and I’m bigger than you, you I’m going to hit you”) they were trying to control me–control me absolutely. But, perhaps parents like you enjoy seeing your children in therapy? My mom sure doesn’t. Breaks her heart to know how much she’s damaged me and my siblings.

      • Sheila

        Respect IS earned. Parents gain respect when a child sees them treat others fairly. Does you child respect you when they see you say to little Susie when she takes something that does not belong to her and mom says “Susie, you shouldn’t have done that” and do nothing. Or do they respect you when you make Susie return the item, apologize, and then discipline Susie?

        I am not implying abuse! Spanking was never intended to be abuse and it should NEVER be done when angry! There is a difference between spanking and beating! I realize that many who have been abused, beaten, and treated poorly by their parents will not agree (and I don’t agree with abuse). I work with children who appreciate being given boundaries by responsible adults and have returned as adults to thank us for caring enough to discipline them when needed. YES, EVEN THOSE WHO WERE SPANKED/PADDLED. They remembered why they were disciplined and avoided making the same mistake again. Read your Old Testament. No one ever appreciates being disciplined at the moment, but realizes later in life how they might have turned out if they had not been disciplined by their parents.

        Why do you think there are so many criminals in the system today? Because no one ever punished them for their misdeeds as children and they continue to commit those deeds over and over. We need more parents who are committed to being parents. Even if it means one parent is a stay-at-home parent. You can see they difference between stable homes where discipline is applied and homes where mom & dad give the child everything they want. I could go on…..but we need to return our country to a God fearing nation using God’s word as our guide. That starts with our homes, something that today’s society has torn apart piece by piece, until we accept it as normal.

        I don’t intend to argue to point. I have seen the difference in the lives of families who discipline. Raise your children God’s way, be the example for them to see and you’re right, you won’t have to discipline as much, but when it is needed, do so and make sure the discipline fits. Don’t go overboard. But SPANKING NEVER KILLED ANYONE.

        • MT

          ACTUALLY, 90% of violent criminals in prisons were spanked as children. And ALL forms of hitting are abusive because it isn’t bodily respect. I’m not saying not to discipline, but hitting isn’t discipline, it’s a show of power. And I don’t know a single parent either my parent’s age or my age who spank their kids when they are/were calm. Every single one I know is angry, has an angry face, and is often yelling at the time. Every one. Even if they’ve had time to “cool down”. They still go to their kids and say, “You’re getting a spanking” really angrily and scary because they know the kids are going to fight them on it. Not saying they are bad parents, but hitting is a reaction to anger and frustration or annoyance. Parents who aren’t angry when they discipline, don’t feel the need to hit their children as discipline or otherwise. Spanking is a knee-jerk, immediate reaction to undesired behavior, not a thought-out punishment, nor a natural consequence. (If you get in trouble at work, your boss doesn’t spank you. If you get in trouble with the law, the police don’t break our a paddle or a belt). It’s lashing out. I was spanked for EVERYTHING as a kid. EVERYTHING was a hittable offense. You didn’t clean your room, that’s a spanking. You yelled at mom, that’s a spanking. You got in trouble at school, that’s a belting. You talked back, that’s a slap in the mouth and then a spanking with a METAL FLY SWATTER. All those “spankings” were not considered “abusive” by anyone in my family nor anyone in the community. Only once I started spending a fortune on therapy did my parents discover that they were child abusers because they were of the belief that they were doing the right thing by me and my siblings.

          Not spanking does not mean you don’t discipline, by the way. Where did you get that idea? I know people who were never spanked as children and they don’t lack discipline or drive. They aren’t disrespectful adults. Quite the opposite, in fact. Yes, there are definitely parents who give their children everything and let them get away with everything and I don’t agree with that at all either. But hitting isn’t the answer. It’s wrong. And it isn’t effective long-term. You know, I can’t even tell you WHAT I was spanked for as a child. Not a single reason. And I was spanked well into my teens. I only remember mom or dad being really mad and me being hit and sent away, unworthy of affection. How is that discipline? I DO, however, remember that when I had issues with a teacher at school and got into a mild amount of trouble and my mom talked through it with me and I lost a few privileges. That’s TRUE discipline right there. If the child learns nothing but “I shouldn’t do that because mom or dad got mad and hit me,” the discipline is wholly ineffective. Discipline, like everything in life, should always be a learning experience.

          As for the bible, that’s hogwash. That whole “spare the rod” thing is a metaphor. Not to be taken literally. A rod was a colloquialism of the times that referred to the staff used by shepherds. It was used to steer and lead a flock in the right direction. It was NEVER used to hit the sheep. You need some more understanding of literature in order to interpret your bible, it seems. In my case, God doesn’t exist. Otherwise, he would have “taught” my parents the difference between real discipline, real interaction with their children, rather than abusive control and power over their children. The fact of the matter is, children who feel cared for and loved EVERY SINGLE DAY do not act out in public, children who feel listened to and respected, do not disrespect. Spanking is not needed with children who are treated as such. If you come to the point of spanking, you’ve messed up somewhere along the line as a parent. If you EVER feel the need to hit your child, YOU need to take a timeout and reevaluate your emotions and reactions.

          Maybe I didn’t die physically from my “spankings” as a child, but emotionally, I died a little more each time I received one to the point that I’m detached emotionally from my parents. I have problems with relationships. It takes a long time for me to trust anyone, much less implicitly. And I most certainly don’t trust my parents at all anymore. Maybe with trivial things, but not emotions or feelings or intimate issues. I haven’t even included them in medical issues that I have. I wouldn’t want to burden them, as I was obviously so burdensome to them as a child that I wasn’t worthy of being raised with love and care, but with power and control. I resent them and even question my love for them from time to time. It just took my mother telling me she knew I was unhappy as a child for her to realize she’d made a grave mistake in her “disciplining”. And, I assure you, she didn’t thank God for that either.

          • Sheila

            So sorry about your childhood. And YES, your parents went to the extremes! Punishment should fit the deed done. And just the same reward should fit the deed!

            So very sorry that you don’t agree with the Bible. The same God who disciplined His children also rewarded them.

            And my children were loved immensely and knew they were loved even though they were disciplined according to what they had done. Discipline includes talking, taking away privileges, and spanking when needed. NOT ALL THE TIME! It serves the purpose.

            Again, I am so sorry for the way you were treated by your parents. That isn’t parenting, that is mental abuse. Please don’t close your heart to God. Read with understanding cover to cover.

          • MT

            Spanking is still 100% wrong. Any child psychologist will tell you that. But I don’t disagree with most of everything else you said. Except for the god part. I think religion is claustrophobic and controlling and I’ve never believed god exists. That isn’t going to change. Have a great day.

          • Sheila

            Still sorry and sad. You are in my prayers.

  • eversosweet

    im not usually one to agree with things like this, i feel like society is way too sensitive about everything but i remember when taking a simple psychology class in high school and covering our milestones as we grow up that things we say to our children really does have an impact on them and how they learn. I always told myself that i would never say no to my child, i didnt it want to be his first word and really from hearing it so often is begins to mean nothing. same things goes when training puppies. my husband on the other hand started to use it when he cam back from deployment and next thing we know he’s yelling no to everything my husband asks him to do and wouldn’t correct whatever action my husband was asking for. so i would really say that this has a point in a lot of ways.

  • Meri G

    Great advice!

  • Ella

    What age bracket would this be for? I have an 18 month old that is not truly talking yet, but needs boundaries. He was headed straight for the burning wood stove, and I intervened, took his little hand and said in a firm tone. “No! No! No! Hot! Hot! Hot!” I am pretty certain that saying “My darling Kip, I would much rather you not be curious about the fire. Why don’t you play with these blocks instead?” would not have taught him that the fire is hot, and he is NOT to touch! No matter how curious he may be. The word ‘no’ is not a bad word. Children do not crumble when they hear it at the right, appropriate times. I guess it is more about the ‘no’ without an explanation.

    • Brenna

      This goes for older children, but can be used with children as young as your son if you set the expectation first to stop the behavior immediately. In other words, “No! The stove is hot!” Then follow it up with “The stove is not for touching, it will burn you. You can choose to play with your toys instead.”

  • Nicole Winsley

    this is almost a joke!!!! when i have childs they are gonna here no A LOT! good job? really!!! that’s a bunch of crap!!! and the stuff that does make sense is called common sense!!!! …. i am losing all hope for future generations

  • Alva

    Is a nice post but I bet most part of us have heard plenty of them and often and we still managed to survive in this world and become adults. No big deal!

  • Sarah Burgess Scott

    Absolutely by far the best tips I have read in a very long time. I am a mother of 4 ages 18 to 5. I discipline my kids, I even spank them…I know dont fall over, I am by far a liberal parent. This has nothing to do with consequences, in fact she encourages it. It makes the children choose whether they will behave or not…it puts the ball in their court but on their level it makes them the bad guy not the parent. I am, in using this method being a reinforcer. Yelling, screaming and empty threats are not discipline they are words of ignorance either choose to try and solve behavior issues this way or keep doing what clearly doesnt work. I mean the way I see it is, this way they think about what they are doing and make a choice, the other way they are not allowed a chance to choose good or bad and do not learn what they need to be a good choice making adult. Great article I loved it.

  • Jo F

    #6 bothers me. When applied to coloring grass purple, it’s great. It’s certainly a good thing to encourage creativity, and unless the child was specifically told to color things the proper colors or color by number as part of an assignment, purple grass isn’t hurting anything. However, when applied to sitting backward in a chair, it seems problematic. Sometimes, there are acceptable and unacceptable ways to do things for no easily explainable reason, and in many situations, it’s not socially acceptable to sit backward in a chair. Teaching children propriety and social skills is not overparenting, it’s preparing them to live in the real world, where sometimes you have to do things a certain way because you were told to by authority, whether or not you know or agree with the reasoning behind the order, or because not doing them in that way would be considered rude or inappropriate by the majority of the society you live in.

  • Ely Heredia

    What is next, parents crawling on hand and foot begging their children to behave? This article is absurd, you ever wonder why young adults feel so damn entitled, they think the rules don’t apply to them. Ps the author looks high in her picture, then I noticed she’s studying at South Florida, yep makes sense now….

  • Katherine Campbell

    I think you gave a bright and new perception on these ten phrases. As the bible says we are to come with love and without temper your responses are just that. Now if the child chooses to disobey after these responses then yes further action ought to be done. Thank you for addressing these ten phrases as I agree with you 100% . Now how us parents all have different perceptions you aren’t going to make everyone agree but that’s just how it is. I must say that this does require us patents to also learn disciplin and not pop off with our words the old habit of things, but children are sponges and wgat we pour into them will come out. Again thank you for covering these topics. In Love <3

  • Georgia

    There are some really good points in this article that could be really useful for parents as part of a wider approach to parenting. However, I think many people in the comments have correctly highlighted that this does not prepare children for the real world. Children need to learn to accept criticism, follow rules, accept responsibility for their actions etc. and coddling children like this is not helpful. For example, as a child I would first be told “Don’t run inside”, when I then asked ‘Why?” I would be told “You could fall or knock something over, that’s why you should walk.”, which actually helped me to think critically, think of consequences and importantly it taught me to accept instruction while still thinking independently about why I was being asked to act a certain way. Give your children some credit and help them develop their own minds and independent self-worth, don’t treat them like emotionally fragile babies because the rest of the world certainly won’t!

  • coco

    well kids today are spoiled lets face them getting ipads at 4 years old thats stupid they need to hear the words no they need to know that life isnt a box of chocolates and they need to be taught all this dont say good job is crap or dont say no is a bunch of crap its just going to turn your kids into spoiled brats they need to know they cant always get the right thing