Sometimes it seems like every time I go online I come across yet another article telling me a bunch of things I’m not supposed to say to my kids. Most of the banned phrases like because I said so used to be considered a standard part of parenting lexicon, and also happen to be phrases I use on my kids with some regularity. Many experts and progressive-minded parents are proposing we do away with this antiquated verbiage altogether. 
Because I do use many of the newly-offensive phrases, I’ve found myself wondering: Am I a bad parent? I mean, what do I know? Most of my knowledge of parenting I gleaned from other moms in my (fairly successful, non-criminal) family. I’ve also read tons of parenting books. But I certainly can’t claim to be an expert; I’m just a mom doing the best she can with her husband to raise a couple of happy, healthy contributors to society. 
Still, I’ve done a lot of thinking about these lists, and while I understand the positive intent behind this new way of thinking, I must — respectfully — call bull. 

The following is a list of the top ten most-common things I’ve read we shouldn’t say to our kids, and why I disagree:
1. “I know you can try harder”This is a mean thing to say because your child is probably already trying his hardest. Instead, when your child goes above and beyond, lavish praise upon him. Your positive reinforcement will be so inspirational that he’ll soon learn to always try his hardest. Praise is like crack for kids. Do not ever let him know you’re disappointed in him.  
The “positive reinforcement” method only works well with praise-junkies. My son doesn’t generally give a crap whether anyone approves of him or not; his ADHD doesn’t leave room in his brain for that. I’m certainly not planning on brow-beating the kid to death, but if I see him slacking off, I’m going to tell him. In the real world, people get criticized when they don’t put forth their best effort; I want my kids to learn that first from someone who loves them unconditionally—me.    
2. “Because I said so” or Don’t argue with me” Don’t cut off your child’s opinions about how wrong you are. This discourages inquisitiveness and models interrupting, which is very rude behavior. It also teaches your child that her feelings are insignificant. Instead say, “My answer is no. Do you have questions about that?”
When my four-year-old whines at the check-out because she wants a lollipop (even though she already got a free cookie from the bakery), I shut her down. No arguing. Sure, I’ll explain later why I wouldn’t let her have the lollipop, but the moment that I’m trying to complete a financial transaction is notthe time for me to prompt my child into a debate. It’s her time to be respectful of me and the person at the register.
Our rule is, “Do what I say immediately and without question. When you’re finished doing what I said to do, thenyou can ask questions.” I am happy to explain to my reasoning to my kids, but there is a time and a place, and interrupting someone else is not that time.  
3. “Stop it right now, or else”Making threats is terrible parenting because it models how to use force and coercion to get one’s way. Worse, it puts you in a position of having to follow through on a threat you made. (The horror!!!) Making threats also makes your children fear you.
Not making threats as a parent? What an adorable fantasy. Of course it wouldn’t make sense to only say “or else,” because “or else” by itself doesn’t mean anything. In my family, there was always a consequence: “Stop tipping your chair backward or else I’m going to take your chair away and you’ll have to stand to eat.” And of course, you have to be willing to follow through on the consequence.

Some articles suggest giving a consequence without issuing an obvious threat, for example: “if you choose to keep tipping your chair backward, you choose to stand for the rest of the meal.” I understand this different wording is meant to teach kids about choices and consequences, but to me it kind of also assumes kids are idiots. The two phrases really say exactly the same thing, and kids are perfectly capable of figuring that out.

4. “Leave me alone” This can cause your child to internalize the message that you don’t want to be around him.
Of course it would be awful for any parent to constantly tell their kid to go away—but remember, these are “never” lists. I think it’s perfectly fine for parents to tell their kids to leave them alone sometimes. My kids know I love them infinity times infinity. They also know that I’m a high-anxiety, low-patience kind of person (I’m working on it, okay?). They know that sometimes they push me to my limit with their monkeys-on-crack tomfoolery. And when they hear me say “leave me alone,” they know it means they’ve gone too far. They don’tsuddenly jump to the conclusion that I hate them. They just giggle and say “Okay Mommy!” and run upstairs to play – away from me. 
I don’t want to model the kind of behavior that says, “My personal space is not important.” I would rather my kids see me assert myself and claim my right to a little peace—even if it means occasionally telling them to “go away”—than to teach them through my own behavior that it’s okay for someone to invade their personal space.
5. “Don’t cry” This invalidates your child’s feelings and tells her it’s not okay to express herself.
Right. Because no kid has ever forced tears just to get her way. My kids—both of them—are expert fake-criers and squeeze out tears like they squeeze out a turd. (Note to self: sign kids up for acting classes.)
It seems the trendy thing to do these days is to give kids freedom to emote without any boundaries whatsoever. We need to stop this. What about when they’re adults? How old do our kids have to be before we hold them accountable for their emotional outbursts? After all, adults can’t go into their place of work and have a melt-down because their boss is a doo-doo-head. They might want to… heck, they might even do it in private, but it’s completely unprofessional to become a blubbering mess at work just because something pisses us off. Somewhere along the way, we have to learn to get our emotions under control. And our kids have to learn it, too.
6. “You know better than that”Maybe your kid really didn’t know better!
Except… when you know darn well your kid really did know better. And good parents know
7. “Wait till daddy gets home” As a parent, you never want to create anxiety in your child after he does something horrible.
Wait, what??? That’s exactly what I want to do. The anxiety my kid feels when I give him my super-awesome parenting lecture followed by “your daddy is probably going to want to discuss this issue with you too” is called guilt and I want my kids to feel it. Yeah, guilt is a yucky feeling, but it’s part of our evolutionary makeup for a reason: to remind us not to do stupid crap over and over again. That being said, after my kid demonstrates remorse, I tell him I see he is truly sorry and that I forgive him, then I tell them it is also time for him to forgive himself.
8. “Hurry up” – ????????
Are you fricking kidding me? I would never get ANYWHERE if I didn’t tell my kids to hurry up.
9. “Good job  This phrase is abused and kids are repeatedly praised for every little thing they do whether they put effort into it or not. Plus it’s too indiscriminate and doesn’t identify precisely the thing the child did well.
I don’t think saying “good job” means I’ll automatically exclude all the other good stuff I can say to boost my kid’s self-esteem. Can’t we keep both? I can tell my kid “good job,” followed by a descriptive explanation of why I’m proud of him, and more importantly, why he should be proud of himself. For instance, when my son gets dressed without reminders (which is hardly ever), I say “Wow, good job! What did you do right? Why am I saying ‘good job’?” Then he gets to tell me, brimming over with pride, about how he got dressed quickly all by himself. Saying “good job” doesn’t make it less of a compliment.
10.No” or “you can’t” Avoid telling your child “no.” You should use positive phrases like “walk, please” instead of negative ones like “don’t run.” After all, if you tell a kid “not” to do something, the first thing that defiant little a-hole is going to do is that thing you just said “not” to do.
I wish parenting “experts” would stop writing these shaming lists that rely so heavily on semantics. We need to give kids credit for being smart enough to figure out when we’re using creative wording to manipulate them. Besides, I would bet most moms are too tired to summon the imagination necessary to rephrase every single thought in their heads just to massage their dumb, nuance-oblivious children’s fragile little egos. 
The fundamental mistake with the advice in these what not to say lists is that words are treated as though they exist in a vacuum. As if a single, seldom-uttered phrase could be the defining component of a child’s development. This is simply not the case. Enveloping a child with boundless love and providing him with a consistently supportive, nurturing, structured environment far out-weighs the occasional poorly-worded reprimand that may slip from a parent’s lips. Most of us are working really hard at being the best parents we can be, and we’re doing a pretty bang-up job of it, too. We are good parents. 

And I’m not going to let any list tell me otherwise.
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  1. Perfect. I say “because I said so” and “get out of my face or something bad will happen” a lot. I totally agree. I read Love and Logic and I did the things but it felt like manipulation, which it is.

    • Haha I say “you need to dial it back about 10 notches or things about to get REAL ugly up in here.” I read the five love-languages. I still think about that stuff – it’s just not always practical and doesn’t always get the job done in the moment. =)

    • My daughter is 5. She can tell when I’m stressed out or when I need to be left alone. Telling her to go play or do something away from me is not bad parenting. Everyone needs their space at least sometimes, and kids need to learn that. Telling your kid to “go away” every once in a while isn’t going to emotionally damage them forever. I feel like half of the people that write these lists don’t even have kids. Anyone with a toddler or preschooler knows they want to be up your butt ALL THE FRIGGIN TIME. I’m all for cuddling with my kid and letting her sit on my lap, but not, for instance, when I’m trying to type up work e-mails or working on a school assignment with a deadline (I’m in college also). Kristen, I can’t even tell you how much I love this post =]

    • Yeah, when I’m doing something that requires my hands, that’s the moment my 4yo wants to hang from my arms like they’re tree-branches and she’s a monkey. Not at ANY OTHER TIME. Just when I need my arms. It’s like THEY KNOW.

  2. You don’t even want to know what I say to my teens, ha! Sometimes I fear for the future…people need to chill and just be the best parents they can be. Screw what the “experts” say. Great post, my friend.

    • Well now I want to do a confessional: “Craziest thing you ever said to your kid that still managed to get the point across.”

    • I swear. More than I’m sure the experts recommend. Funny thing is, I’m kinda prudish about letting the f bombs and a holes fly in my “public” life, but at home I have no problem muttering about people leaving the mother effing cabinets open or not putting dirty dishes in the gd dishwasher. But when I do start my sailor talk, they know I’m not kidding. Parenting is a trip.

  3. Right on! I could’t agree with you more! I believe I’ve said pretty much all of these, and my LO is only 4 lol a phrase here or there isnt going to mess up a child. And most experts don’t even have children so they have no clue what they’re talking about, its easy for them to point fingers and say “you are a bad parent”. That why I highly dislike Psychology and being a super positive unicorn that farts rainbows and glitter! If they had kids I guarantee you their tune would change in a heartbeat!
    I’m so glad I found this article, we may be kidred spirits lol Thanks so much!!

    • You know I have a thing about unicorns that fart rainbows and glitter, right? Ironically, of course, but still. It’s a thing. I heart them.

  4. I say everything on this list pretty much on a daily basis. In particular, I tell my daughter to leave me alone paired with “Go Away!” when she’s acting like a maniacal, four year old, heathen, tantrum thrower. I want her to know that I don’t want to be around that and neither does anyone else. (I say that, too.)

    People who worry about raising special snowflakes without hurt feelings raised entitled brats who can’t function in the world.

    Shauna @

    (I commented earlier but I think facebook ate it.)

    • Yeah, I’ve even told my son that he’s annoying. *Someone* needed to tell him. I’d rather it be someone who loves him. :-/

  5. I would loooovee to add to the confessional post!! I’ve said some interesting things lol

    • GAH – I forgot. Too many pots on the stove today… I’ll try to remember tomorrow. OMG my kid has a field-trip tomorrow. I’ll be facebooking on the bus.

  6. “Are you SERIOUSLY still by me? Did you not just effing here me say go away??” Yep, this is my line and I may not use it every day but with 5 kids, ages 4-15, you bet your ASS they know it just got real when they hear that!!!

    At the grocery store last week with my 4 year old and he was AWFUL and in the midst of a “stop it or else” lecture a little old man stopped and said…
    “Boy, you better listen to your momma”
    To which my son said…
    “Yeah to late, she already pulled my hair and called daddy”
    And the old man said…
    “Then she’s doing it right” patted my shoulder and walked away.

    Sometimes old school is the only way.

  7. I’ve been know to tell my kids “I will always, always love you but sometimes I just don’t like you!” The first time I said it they were in shock but then I asked them if they always like me and when they said no I asked them then why did they think I always had to like them? Now they just laugh and run away when I say it. I always say Hurry!!!! to my kids especially my 15 yr old. I tell her she moves at turtle or slug speed. I rarely say because I said so because my parents always said this and it drove me nuts because I was never allowed to know their reasons for saying so. I’m the type of person that must know a reason for things so this never flew with me. LOL

  8. #7 comes out of my mouth daily. And yes, if in public I tend to whisper it softly for fear of sounding very 1950. 😉

    • That’s why I rephrased mine… “You’re daddy is probably going to want to speak to you about this too.”

      Huh. Speaking of semantics… 😉

  9. I dreamed I was babysitting Mari for you and I also had some phone numbers for you on ADHD and organic eating. In the same dream I also made a gallon of Mojito. I’ve never even had a Mojito before!?

  10. Holy cow. According to that I’m a terrible parent! What a load of shit. haha! I think I’ve said all those things. A lot. And what kind of parent can’t say Hurry Up??? Or “flush the damn toilet!” Or “did you wash your hands?” or “can you puleeze stop leaving your trash all over the house?” or my latest, “get your hands off your brother’s butt.” Why? why would I ever have to say that?

    • Or “please don’t put your finger in your butt.” I have a list. The List of Things I Never Thought I’d Say and Then I Became a Parent.

  11. I am a professor and teaching parenting education and I agree with you! I get into arguments with child development coworkers who correct me when I use the words “kids” instead of “children”. Give me a break! There are a lot worse things that you can say or call KIDS than this list. I am getting tired of the cultural norm to bash parents at any chance. The actual words do not matter as much as the feelings and that comes through regardless of the phrases used.

    KIDS need confident parents to teach them but what parent is going to be confident is they are continually worrying about what is coming out of their mouths?! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with the world! 😉

    • I’ve never heard that it was a bad thing to call kids “kids.” How strange. More semantics…

  12. Sing it sister. Esp. Loved your response to #8 & this: “Besides, I’m usually too tired to summon the imagination to rephrase every single thought in my head just to massage my dumb, nuance-oblivious children’s fragile little egos.”

  13. Love this post! I think that kids need to be spoken to in a straightforward and age appropriate way. Sometimes that can seem a little harsh but harsh is often exactly what’s needed. The world isn’t going to sugarcoat everything for them, parents can’t either.

    • I caught myself telling my son today, “Please stop making that annoying sound. You’re driving me crazy,” and immediately thought of how the “experts” would tell me that was a terrible thing to say.

  14. You’re awesome, and I say all that shit to my kids. In addition to, “OH MY GOD, CAN YOU GUYS JUST BE QUIET FOR FIVE MINUTES?” and “Do not come in here unless you are on fire or bleeding.”

    • I teach violin and while I’m teaching I tell my kids to only interrupt me if the house is on fire or someone is bleeding. 😉

    • Yeah, I TRY to explain “why” to them… but sometimes there isn’t time. And sometimes they’re just being a-holes and don’t deserve an explanation. 😉

  15. I am guessing that the crack smokers who wrote this list does not have children. After all we all know that people without children know how to raise them better than those of us with kids. Don’t tell them NO…are you flipping kidding me..My kid would be dead a 1000 times over if I was not there to say, yell, shout from the rooftops NO, DON’T DO _______________.