We are humans, we make mistakes, and we slip up, and sometimes curse under our breath or even loudly in front of our children. Don’t beat yourself up, it happens to many of us. However, start being mindful. I had a parent tell me she slipped up ONE time and used the ‘F’ word and her child is now getting referrals at school for shouting the same word. Our children here us, watch us, and do what we do.
Cursing seems to be an obvious thing to avoid around our children, but there are some other statements that I am noticing are bothering clients of mine and are also just not working for them. I want to share a few things NOT to say around your kids.
- Curse words- Also see the ‘Why Your Child Curses’ blog. Children soak up information constantly. They also want to be a part of and experience a sense of belonging, so they will do what you do. Plus, anything that is ‘bad’ to them is also funny.
- Money problems– I have many teens that come to me worried about their parent’s financial situations. This is not something a child should be worrying about. This is your business and yours only. Even a simple statement, ‘we are trying to save money’ can worry the anxiety-stricken teen. There is no problem telling your child what’s a reasonable price versus outrageously expensive, but please be careful about saying, ‘were going broke’, ‘I don’t have any money, or ‘we cant afford that.’ While I understand that this may be the case, anxious teens can really run with these statements and begin to worry that something bad may happen. Teach your children the meaning of a dollar without making them feel like doom is approaching.
- Anything negative about the other parent- I work with a lot of children from divorced parents. Often times one of their parents is feeding them inappropriate information about their ex. Your child trusts you and listens to you. If you tell them that their father is a bad person and your child still has rights to see their father, their relationship with not only their father, but with you, has been tainted. Whether you like your ex or not, please avoid speaking negatively to your child about them. Instead, refrain from saying any bias information at all. Be objective and state, ‘Johnny, your father is picking you up from soccer today’ instead of, ‘Johnny, your worthless father is supposedly picking you up from soccer today, who knows if that will actually happen.’ Immediately, your child has a view that their father is a bad person, when in reality; your child actually has positive experiences with their father.
- Your problems- Sure, as your child or teen gets older, its perfectly fine to confide in them information that may benefit or help them. For instance, if your child is being bullied at school, letting them know you too were bullied at their age- actually builds rapport and a bond. However, spilling your work related or relationship problems onto a 14 year old is only going to make them worried and often times feeling helpless. A child or teen cannot do much to help fix your grown up problems. Instead, the child takes the brunt of your issues and ends up feeling like they are not only carrying around their problems, but now yours too, feeling completely helpless to do anything about them. My personal suggestion? Seek a professional to help work through your problems with you.
- ‘You’re in trouble.’- While this statement may be true in the moment, refrain from threatening your child with this statement. Chances are, the child is already in a highly emotional state and extremely emotionally dysregulated, that telling them they’re in trouble is only going to make things worse for both you and them. Try to wait until the child has calmed down and give him clear, concise, and simple instructions for what he needs to do next. Later on, allow him to explain to you what he was experiencing and then explain to him the consequences for his behavior.
- ‘Don’t do that!’- This is an extremely vague statement for some children. Especially children who are ADHD or on the spectrum. This statement says nothing to them. Children typically need, again, ‘clear, concise, simple instructions’ about what they should be doing, not what they shouldn’t be doing. I had a client who was playing in a sandbox I have in my office and was essentially making a mess. He was also stomping his foot and chewing his gum very loudly. The mother yelled, ‘Don’t do that!’, attempting at getting the child to stop tossing sand out of the sand box. The child stopped stomping his feet and continued to throw sand around. The mother yelled it two more times and the child became very confused. The child had thought the mother wanted him to stop stomping his feet, which quite honestly caused no issues to his mother or me. I instructed the child to please put the sand down, wipe off his hands, and sit down in the chair with me. The child immediately stopped what he was doing and followed the instructions.
Have any other suggestions for what NOT to say around children? Shoot me a message or leave a comment below.