Parenting is one of the most challenging and rewarding jobs that anyone can undertake. As a father, your words hold tremendous power over your children, and what you say can have a lasting impact on their lives. While there are many phrases that dads should say to their kids (we wrote about 21 phrases dads should say to their kids), there are also some that they should never utter. In this article, we will outline seven phrases dads should never say to their kids and the reason why.
1. “I don’t have time for you right now.”
Dr. Ken Canfield, a parenting expert, says that when a dad tells his child he doesn’t have time for them, it sends the message that the child is not important. He says, “Kids need to know that they are a priority in their dad’s life, and that their dad will make time for them no matter what.” When dads say this phrase, it can also lead to feelings of rejection and low self-worth in their children.
2. “Stop crying, you’re being a baby.”
Dr. Laura Markham, a clinical psychologist and parenting expert, says that telling a child to stop crying and to “toughen up” can be damaging. She says, “Crying is a natural response to emotions, and when dads tell their children to stop crying, they are telling them that their emotions are not valid.” This can lead to children suppressing their emotions, which can have negative effects on their mental health.
3. “Why can’t you be more like your sister/brother?”
Dr. Josh Straub, a marriage and family coach, says that comparing children to their siblings can create resentment and jealousy. He says, “Each child is unique, and when dads compare them to their siblings, it sends the message that they are not good enough.” This can damage their self-esteem and make them feel like they are not loved for who they are.
4. “I’m disappointed in you.”
Dr. William Sears, a pediatrician and parenting expert, says that telling a child that you are disappointed in them can be damaging to their self-esteem. He says, “Children need to know that they are loved unconditionally, and when dads say they are disappointed, it sends the message that their love is conditional on the child’s behavior.” This can lead to feelings of guilt and shame, which can be harmful to their emotional well-being.
5. “You’re not good at that.”
Dr. Markham says that when dads tell their children that they are not good at something, it can damage their confidence and self-esteem. She says, “Children need to feel like they can achieve anything they set their minds to, and when dads say they are not good at something, it sends the message that they cannot succeed.” This can lead to children giving up on things they are passionate about and not taking risks.
6. “Do as I say, not as I do.”
Ken Canfield says that when dads tell their children to do as they say and not as they do, it can lead to confusion and mistrust. He says, “Children learn by example, and when dads say one thing and do another, it sends the message that their words are not to be trusted.” This can lead to children not taking their dad’s advice seriously and can create a lack of respect.
7. “Because I said so.”
It’s a phrase that many of us heard growing up and perhaps even used as parents ourselves. However, Dr. Sears warns that telling a child “because I said so” can lead to feelings of resentment and mistrust. He says, “Children need to understand the reasons behind rules and decisions. When dads use this phrase, it sends the message that their authority is arbitrary, and their children’s opinions and understanding are not valued.” This can lead to children feeling frustrated, powerless, and resentful, and may even make them less likely to follow rules or accept authority in the future.
As a father, it’s important to be mindful of the language we use when communicating with our children. Our words have a powerful impact on our children’s emotional well-being and self-esteem. By avoiding these harmful phrases and instead choosing our words carefully, we can foster a positive and healthy relationship with our kids and help them grow into confident and resilient adults.
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Thanks for great notes.
I was hoping to see alternatives the phrases one should avoid.
You’re welcome. If you follow the link for the 21 Positive Phrases article we think you can find some great alternatives.
I agree with most of them, but think that the misspelling of #4 “I’m disapointed in you” is pointing to something to discuss… I think in the context of a loving, supportive relationship it’s actually important at specific moments to express disappointment in behaviours i.e not the child/person but the action. As parents we’re setting the moral and behavioural bar. In this context, expressing disappointment is an indication that we’re observant, engaged and care about their behaviour.
Thanks Jacob for catching that typo so we could correct it. Yes, a loving and supportive relationship is vital to communicating strong feelings in a healthy way. In the case of disappointment, it’s ok to express the feeling of disappointment you may have in response to their behaviour (i.e. “I feel really disappointed right now”), but we believe, like Dr. Sears, that it’s detrimental to direct the disappointment toward the child, even if referencing their behaviour. Our children are not responsible for our feelings, nor can they differentiate their ‘behaviour’ from ‘who they are’. When you say you’re disappointed in their behaviour it’s essentially the same as telling them you’re disappointed in them as people. By communicating and owning your own feelings without attaching it to them or their behaviour you’re modelling that we can have hard feelings and still love our child unconditionally, which is a very high moral and behavioural standard we can all aspire to reach.