11 seemingly harmless phrases that should not be said to a child - ForumDaily
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11 seemingly harmless phrases that should not be said to a child

There are phrases that children may misunderstand. Some words can confuse them or distort the meaning of your message, although at first glance they sound completely harmless. Experts recommend avoiding them when handling children. Explains what they are HuffPost.

Photo: iStock.com/Kobus Louw

We all know we need to watch our speech when we're around children: no swearing, no adult-only topics, no gossip you wouldn't want them repeating to anyone else. If we miss any of this, we usually realize it immediately.

But there are other aspects that we should avoid telling our children. But we are unlikely to notice them because they are very common and seem harmless. Many of us repeat them out of habit.

1. Could you not...

Many of us have a habit of saying a phrase like this to appear polite or respectful, but it can confuse children. If you give instructions, it is better to do so without asking questions.

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"A question like this involves an element of choice where the child can say 'no,'" explained Amy Jackson, director of early learning strategy at Primrose Schools. Instead, use simple wishes: “Please remove the cubes” or “You need to remove the cubes.”

Another option: “It’s time to collect the cubes.” This language communicates that the parent is not forcing the child to do something on a whim, but is simply communicating that now is the time to clean up the day's schedule.

2. I'm not going to help you

It's good to encourage children to do things on their own, but this language "can be frustrating and may result in the child not coming to see the parents later," explained Whitney Raglin Bignall, associate clinical director of On Our Sleeves.

Instead, she suggests saying something like, "Try it first, and if it doesn't work, we'll talk about it." This will let your child know that you believe in them and are willing to offer support when needed.

3. Well done!

Many of us grew up regulating our behavior to achieve this kind of praise from adults. But this vague praise is not specific enough for children to really benefit from it.

“It doesn’t give much insight into what they do well,” Jackson said.

When they do something right, be specific so children know what behavior to repeat in the future. You can say something like, “I see you collecting blocks and putting them in a box. Thank you for helping us keep this space clean,” or “Well done for throwing that out.”

4. I want you to behave

Many of us remember our parents sternly telling us that we "better behave" before entering someone's house or in other similar situations. But again, these instructions are not specific enough to be useful for children. They lack experience and don't always know what "good" behavior looks like in a particular situation.

Instead, tell your child specifically, “I need you to stay close to the cart and only touch the food we are going to buy.”

5. Calm down

This may seem like the most obvious command to use to control a squealing child, but it simply doesn’t work.

“No one ever calmed down when they were told to do this,” Jackson said.

“Children need to know that it is normal to have strong feelings and they need to be taught ways to self-regulate. Telling them to calm down, stop crying, or get over it assumes they can or know how to do it,” she continued.

A hug, a few deep breaths together, or a redirection of attention can help children cope with strong feelings. Sometimes all it takes is your own calm and constant presence to help them.

6. It's not a big deal

Although the problem may seem trivial to us, this does not mean it is so to your child.

“Phrases like this often invalidate the child’s feelings,” said Raglin Bignall.

“This can lead to him feeling rejected or believing that his feelings are not valued,” Jackson said.

Try asking an open-ended question instead.

“This seems very important to you—tell me why you’re upset,” suggested Raglin Bignall.

7. Why didn't you tell me earlier?

“We don't want kids to feel punished for finally opening up,” Raglin Bignall said. “We want to focus on their feelings rather than our own when we praise them for saying something and let them know we are there to listen.”

Instead, it is advisable to respond: “Thank you very much for contacting me about this.”

8. Ending an instruction or statement with the question word “OK?”

Many people have the habit of adding the international word "OK" to a question to soften it or seem nice. But children may not understand this.

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Give clear instructions about what you want your child to do.

Likewise, if you are making a declarative statement, such as “Mom will be leaving now,” you should not follow up with an “OK?” You don't ask your child for permission or feedback, you simply tell him what will happen.

9. Stop it

Although sometimes we need to stop our children from doing something dangerous, the general rule is to use affirmative rather than negative commands. We need to tell children what to do, not what not to do.

Again, it helps to be as specific as possible: “Walk next to me” or “Hold the ball in your hands.” Wording your requests this way will help you maintain a more positive tone.

10. Was it a good choice?

We want children to think about their behavior, but this particular phrase sends an indirect message to the child that they are choosing to be “bad.”

Instead, ask questions that will help your child come up with possible solutions on his own, and reaffirm that he is always good, even if he sometimes makes mistakes in his behavior.

11. Explain in words

This team does not recognize that the child's distress is a result of his limited ability to communicate what he is feeling.

“If the child knew what words to use to express his feelings, he would most likely do so,” Jackson said.

Ask open and simple questions in a calm and controlled manner, such as: “What do you need?”, “How can I help?”, “Tell me what happened,” “Are you feeling _____?”

Help your child understand what he can do when he has certain feelings: anger, sadness or disappointment.

“Practice role-playing and have an open conversation about what he might do differently next time,” Jackson advises.

When talking to your child, remember that it's not just the words you use, but also the way you say them and the other signals you send. If you as a parent are stressed, your children will feel it. It's okay to say that you need a minute to calm down or (if it's safe to do so) step away for a while. This gives you a chance to think about what you are about to say and shows your children how to regulate their emotions.

Although it can be difficult, remaining calm when your child is upset.

“This will help him understand that no matter how he feels, your child is capable of handling difficult tasks,” Jackson said finally.

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