8 Things I Want to Stop Saying to My Kids

8 things i want to stop saying to my kids

I’ll admit it! When faced with a parenting struggle, I inadvertently turn into my mother. Being cornered by stress, time, or social pressure, I say the exact same things to my kids as I used to hear. Even when I clearly remember it made no sense to me back then. When I’m not in the hot seat, it makes absolutely no sense even now.

This realization came when my 4-year-old daughter started repeating these words either to her brother and sister or when talking to her toys, which made me really worried this might be what her inner dialogue will sound like. Hearing her saying it out loud provided an unwelcome perspective. So this was my wake-up call.

I made a list of all the nonsensical things I say to my kids and how I’m planning to change them. This is still work in progress and even though I became aware of these automatic responses a couple of months ago, changing my responses is an everyday exercise in awareness, resistance, and desire to change.

1. You’re not listening!

When I’m in the middle of something, such as cooking breakfast or washing dishes, my mind goes through all the other things that need to be done and how I can accomplish them in a more efficient manner. And so I start giving instructions to the kids, usually by barking orders over the running water all the way to the other rooms. After I’ve repeated for the 83rd time put your sooooooooocks on, it’s time for schoooool or it’s time to come to the baaaaaaaath, I lose my temper, march over to the guilty toddler and conclude You’re not listening!
When in fact, there might be a million other reasons why she hasn’t considered my request.
I also learned that if my kids are not being offered eye contact and a good reason to do something, they simply won’t do it. More than this, everything seems to go much faster if there is a race of some sort involved.
So instead of You’re not listening, my plan is to go over, gently touch their shoulder or arm and say let’s put our socks on, first one in the bath is the fastest! or last one in bed is a dirty bug!.

2. This is not a toy!

This one is a favorite of my husband, Steven. The kids grab our phones, the remote controls or the keys and the immediate reaction they get is This is not a toy! after which the object is removed from their little curious hands.

#1 EVERYTHING is a toy for kids

Rocks, caterpillars, dirt, electronics, water or cat chow, or any other single object they come in contact with, is an opportunity for kids to discover the world and how it works. Action and reaction, gravity, textures, sounds, the list is endless.

#2 We actually mean to say “don’t play with this”

Instead of saying it directly, we imply it by another statement. We have to start realizing these are two and four-year-olds we are trying to impress with our complex brains and language.

#3 Our job is to filter their access to stuff

If they are babies, let’s not play with the phone while we’re sitting next to them. They will want to do the same instead of rationally thinking This is my parent’s stuff, not my toy!.
If they are toddlers, let’s not leave the scissors in a place they can reach. They will want to do what we do instead of thinking These scissors are too big and dangerous for me, I shouldn’t touch them.
If they are young teenagers, we shouldn’t let them have unrestricted access to internet or tv, hoping they will think “Hmm… Jaws, this doesn’t sound like an appropriate film for a 10-year-old, so I won’t watch it.
We can’t expect our kids to self-regulate, so my plan is to remove from their reach all the things that are not appropriate for them. If I want to introduce something new, it would be intentional, under my supervision and with the right amount of guidance.
I will not use my phone and computer when I’m with them. If I must, I will stand up and go in another room. Most ‘technological emergencies’ can wait. I will put the remotes in a drawer, the keys in a place they can’t reach and if they get something they shouldn’t, I will calmly say We won’t use this right now or Ohh, you found my phone! Can you help me put it up here on this shelf?

3. Sit like a normal person!

Good posture is not something my kids perform very well. They sit perfectly straight if they don’t have to. But put them at the table, they slide down that high chair as if they were made of jelly. Put them in the stroller, they go to the lowest low of the seatbelt. Ask them to sit down to put their shoes and all of the sudden they get so tired, they can only lie down on the floor. My reaction? Sit like a normal person!
The other day I was lying down on the floor with my head propped on the sofa. I wasn’t comfortable, but I was too lazy to move. My daughter passed by and without any trace of kindness said Sit like a normal person!
It’s a full circle, people! It will come right back at us when least expected.
So instead of saying this, I will say I’m gonna wait until you sit back straight in your chair before we continue eating or ***We can always go to school without shoes.
***Only say this if you are actually prepared to allow them to go to school without shoes.

4. Don’t run!

I haven’t seen my kids walking in years! They evolved along this line: crawling(for a couple of months)-walking(for a couple of weeks)-running(for a couple of days)-only running(ever since).
Nevertheless, I get quite nervous when I see them run over unknown territory, and that’s mostly because I am the one who is scared about what might happen.

You see, when I was probably 11, I LOVED running. We were having our lunch break and decided to go to grab a pretzel. To make it back to class in time, we had to rush. My school was up a hill and the market was down. My friends and I were running to make it. I was running as fast as my legs would take me downhill. I remember vividly the wind in my hair, my heels almost touching the back of my thighs, the red training suit I had on with “Saint Tropez” written on the side, the sweet spring air. I was a good runner. I felt free. I was with my friends, enjoying every second. Then, all of the sudden, everything became blurry. An abrupt end to my movie. I fell. As hard as you can imagine. My red training suit had a big hole in it, my palms were scratched, small stones made their way under my skin, my knees were bloody and I couldn’t even cry because I was 11 and I had to be cool.
It was rough. It hurt.
When I got home, my grandma’s first reaction was: See, I told you not to run!
Running has ever since been an ordeal.
And then I see my kids running as if there was nothing else in the world, and I am so so scared they will fall and get those bloody knees and feel pain and embarrassment and I’m even more scared that instead of holding them and kissing their pains, I will say See, I told you not to run!
So I say Don’t run! because I don’t want to see them fall.
Which is wrong, I know.
So instead of saying Don’t run! I commit to say Have fun! Be free! Go as fast as your feet will take you!
And if they do fall, I will bite my tongue a bit more and just be there, without passing any judgment, holding them tight and hoping they will have the courage to run again.

5. Was this your best idea?

My daughter climbed the bath tub and lost her balance.
Was this your best idea?
She used markers to do window art all over the newly washed 6 living room floor-to-ceiling windows.
Was this your best idea?
My son threw his pool toys in the toilet, cause you know, that looked like water.
Was this your best idea?
I can’t trace it back, I don’t know if anybody said that to me, but I’ve said it enough times to realize it’s an automated response.
I certainly say it to myself after I fail at something. Like that one time I sat at the hairdresser and he offered highlights and I said yes without asking how much they cost and they ended up being more expensive than coloring, cutting and pedicure combined. Not my best idea. Or that other time I bought some shirts on sale that appeared to be my size without trying them on. You can’t return things you buy on sale by the way. Not my best idea.
So going back to the kids, no, probably that was not the best idea, but it was probably the ONLY idea they had. Or maybe they debated in their own little heads the options and considered this one to be the best.
How many decisions do I make that are not the best idea?
So instead of saying that, I will say Hmmm.. that looks messy/that looks like it hurts. How can you make it better or different next time? Why shouldn’t we do this again?
Also, I will delete this from my own inner dialogue. If I do something silly, I will just give myself the benefit of the doubt. I could have done better if I knew how.

6. You’re gonna get hurt!

I say this idiotic sentence more times than I like to admit. And not only when it’s really dangerous, but also when my kids want to try something new and I’m not sure of their abilities.
Like when they plan to jump the last two steps on the stairs. Or when they want to dive in the swimming pool.
I can’t ensure the outcome, and so I try to stop them from doing it by scaring them into the possibility of physical pain. That’s horrible!
As children, we heard many times: don’t climb that tree, you will get hurt! or don’t go down the stairs in the basement, you’re gonna get hurt!
Tragically, this sentences plagues not only our willingness to push physical boundaries, it also spread over other areas of life: don’t change your job and plunge into the unknown, you’re gonna get hurt!, don’t open up to your true desires, you’re gonna get hurt! and the classic don’t aim too far/too different/too brave, you’re gonna get hurt.
It’s part of how our inner critic is carrying out normal business when we‘re faced with novelty.
Being hurt is of course not what I wanted my kids to experience, but how else can they develop resilience, how else can they understand they have the right to try to do what they dream? Our reaction to when they are actually hurt matters more than just the parrot-style sentence thrown around every couple of hours.
So instead, I will replace it with: You’re trying this! Wow, that’s brave/interesting! What’s your plan? or ***How are you planning to stay safe?***if it’s more dangerous than estimated.
And I will extend the same courtesy to my own reactions.

7. Do you know how many people don’t have any food?

Sometimes, (some of) my kids have the ability to stay for hours in front of a plate and just nibble tiny pieces off the sides. The crunchy bits. All while complaining about the fact that it is not pasta or it is too green to be edible.
I want to be the better mother and just let them go without eating dinner and offer them the exact same thing when they ask for cookies 10 minutes later, but I am not yet that woman.
Instead, I try to feed them myself or try to convince them to have just one more bite or worse yet, offer or withdraw a post-meal treat.
You see, I grew up in a communist country in the 80s. The food was never plentiful. Whatever was distributed on a plate had to be eaten. I was not allowed to stand up from the table when inside my plate was still something to eat. If I didn’t like it, I would have to sit there not only hating the food but also listening to how lucky we were because we actually had it. The end was always the same: I had to eat.
These days, I have enough food, but I still can’t stand the sight of an unfinished plate.
So when I’m really at the end of my willingness to respect my children’s preferences in regards to the quantity of food they want to ingest, I bring out the all-time favorite Do you know how many kids don’t have any food? Look at us! We have plenty! And we waste it! You could feed a small village with what you leave on your plate.
I don’t like it, but the words seem to leave my mouth before I even give it another thought.
No, my kids don’t know that others don’t have any food. They live in a bubble of having enough. We can afford the bills, we can get healthy nutritious food. They don’t know any different and I’m grateful for that. Trying to guilt them into global hunger issues will not make them feel more hungry or start enjoying the foods I try to introduce to them all of the sudden. In my family, we could all live a better life without this statement.
Instead, I will work on accepting that my kids have preferences of meal choices. Some days they might like what I cook, some days they won’t, some days they will be more hungry, some days less. I will not take it personally. This is not a direct criticism. I will put their food away and don’t offer alternatives. If they really don’t like it, I will offer them a healthy high-calorie snack, like an avocado.
When they are a bit older, we will go together to volunteer in soup kitchens or Meals on Wheels. They can see how other people live and what they eat and they can make their own mind what to do about it.
Meanwhile, I will acknowledge and learn to respect their decisions.

8. See?

This is the milder version of I told you so… and it comes automatically our of my mouth when the kids reach a result I previously warned about.
Can I cut that?
No, the scissors are not strong enough to cut through such thick paper.
They try anyway and it doesn’t work.
They come crying to their mama.
Mama shoots “See…?”

If this would be a dialogue between two adults, I would positively break down in tears not because something didn’t work, but because I received no support and understanding for my failure.
I want to change this reaction to:
Can I cut that?
I don’t know. Let’s see.
They try and it doesn’t work.
Hmmm… Why do you think that happened? What can we do about it?

I know this is not only my house. I know we are only struggling with repeating to our kids the exact same sentences we heard when we were young.

To change our inner and outer dialogue, we must fist acknowledge that whatever we do is not intentional. We operate on autopilot, we say things we heard before, we embrace truths we are not sure they’re ours. We don’t spend the time and energy to make small intentional changes.
Tony Robbins says “change happens in a moment”. Change starts with the instant when we make a conscious decision to change how we view ourselves, how we perceive others, how we talk and how we conduct inner dialogue.

We can let it consume us or we can deliberately step out of the crazy carousel. My moment of change starts NOW.

What do you say to your kids that make no sense at all?


We all have things we say that make absolutely no sense. Share along!

8 Things I Want to Stop Saying to My Kids 

To change our inner and outer dialogue, we must fist acknowledge that whatever we do is not intentional.

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14 Comments

  • Dana

    Reply Reply July 28, 2016

    I’m so relieved to read that others have these issues as well. Thank you for writing this so honestly.
    I say more than I should:
    Don’t touch this
    Be patient
    Are we done?

    • Talida

      Reply Reply August 1, 2016

      We all have these exact issues, Dana, regardless of our age, background or number of kids. We’re in this together 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Reply Reply July 28, 2016

    How could you say this to your children?

    • Talida

      Reply Reply August 1, 2016

      Well Anonymous, I truly appreciate your courage in writing this comment, even though you didn’t sign it.
      My inner critic sounds exactly like you “How can I say these things to my kids?”. I could go on and on for days repeating this to myself, all until I also learned to be kinder to it and myself. So now, I stand here, in front of you, virtual Anonymous, saying Thank You! for your input, forgiving myself for losing it with my kids and people I love and hoping to do better next time.

      • Mandy

        Reply Reply August 4, 2016

        Amen sister! We’re all going through the same battles, don’t listen to the ones who pretend none of these things came out of their mouth.

        • Talida

          Reply Reply August 25, 2016

          Thanks for your support Mandy.

  • Aneth

    Reply Reply July 28, 2016

    I just said yesterday to my tweenager daughter WHATS WRONG WITH YOU?
    I feel so bad!
    What should i do?

    • Talida

      Reply Reply August 1, 2016

      Aneth, we all say things we regret sooner or later.
      First, forgive yourself. You’ve made a mistake. You’re still a good mother, you just reacted to something that triggered pain. I suggest you get curious about what that was.
      Then talk to your daughter. Having a parent admitting to saying something they don’t mean is a very refreshing event.
      A big hug!

  • yahaira michelle

    Reply Reply August 1, 2016

    I placed a comment but it seems it wonty stay i can see it but It seems it does not show only onmy page?

  • yahaira michelle

    Reply Reply August 1, 2016

    This note is interesting and I see myself in almost all the points stated above. I will really make my list and start changing what I say and how I say it. “Dont Run” is my #1. Thank you for this eye opener. “I turned into my mother” made me laugh

    • Talida

      Reply Reply August 1, 2016

      Hi Yahaira Michelle 🙂 Isn’t it so amazing that we all have pretty much the same vocabulary regardless where on the globe we were born?
      Please share your list with me, I would love to hear your insights.

  • Ma Belen

    Reply Reply August 22, 2016

    I love this and find myself in every single one of them. Thank you for being honest.

    • Talida

      Reply Reply August 25, 2016

      Thank you for being here Ma Belen 🙂

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