Creative Child

6 Parenting Phrases to Reconsider

by Rebecca Eanes

We often repeat the same phrases that we heard when we were children without giving them much thought. I think it’s always good to pause and reflect on the language we are using and if they are in line with our current values and family goals. Here are 6 common phrases to pause and reflect on today.

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“Just wait until your dad/mom gets home.”
This is a pretty common threat designed to bring misbehaving children in line quickly, but let’s think about it for a moment. Often, this means when the other parent gets home, he or she will punish the child in some way. It could also mean “just wait until I tell your father about this” which still implies some sort of retribution is coming, or at the very least, disappointment. The result of this phrase is likely going to be fear and/or anxiety, neither of which are good motivators for behavior change.

We want our children’s hearts above all else. This is what keeps them close to us and gives us true authority. Ruling with threats and fear strips us of that and gives us only temporary power but at a great price. The last thing we want is for a child to dread or fear seeing a parent.

“Be good.”
I’ve written before about the messages behind “be good” and what we could say instead. For one thing, “be good” is a very abstract concept for young children. It’s better to give specific and clear instructions, such as “listen to grandma and do what she asks” or “be kind and follow the rules.” For some children, “be good” might feel like an insinuation that you think they are not usually good and must therefore be reminded to be. This may seem like a small thing, but I believe one of the most important things we can do for our children is to believe in them and show our faith in their goodness, abilities, and positive intentions. When children feel good, they will be good, and helping them build a good self-esteem is a positive road to good behavior.

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“Go to your room.”
It’s not that I believe parents should never say it, but this phrase is probably overused, and it’s especially not helpful for young children who do not fully understand the reason for their banishment. When children are struggling, this is a time to pull them closer and offer love and guidance. Dr. Gordon Neufeld says that we’ve gone to a practice of parenting and teaching that makes children work for our love rather than resting in it. He says we withdraw the invitation to exist in our presence until they come into line, thereby making them work for our contact and closeness.

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