6 Things You Shouldn’t Be Afraid To Say To Your Child

6 Things You Shouldn’t Be Afraid To Say To Your Child

A friend recently confided in me that she was scared of saying anything nice or boosting to her child because of all the recommendations of not saying “good job” to kids these days.  In fact, she said that with all the recommendations of what not to say and what not to do, it’s become so hard to trust that anything we do as parents is ok.  We talked a lot about balance, limits and trusting our instincts and so  today I want to share 6 things I believe we should not be afraid to say to our children:

I am sorry: It’s not only ok to apologize to our children, it’s really important because it models what to do when we do something we are not proud of or something we regret.  If you yell or lose your cool, it’s important to apologize and restore the connection.  On the other hand, if you find yourself constantly needing to say you are sorry, it may be a sign that it’s time to pause and reflect on your choices.

NO:  Yes, it is really important to create a yes environment and provide alternatives to simply stating NO all the time. Yet, there are moments when saying No will be absolutely necessary and in the best interest of our children.  That moment will depend on your family values and the limits you find important to set for your family, and sure there are ways to saying it positively and if used sparingly it also retains its actual effect.

My four year old wanted a toy from a store the other day. First, I told him he could put it on his wish list. Usually this is all my son needs to  move on,  but this day, the toy was just so tempting! Having a hard time letting go of his wish, my son asked for it again.

Sensing his difficulty, I knew it was time to be decisive.  I knelt down and empathized, “The toy looks like great fun.  I know it’s hard to walk away, I know you really, really want it AND the answer is NO.”   I gave him a hug, and then we left, holding hands. Yes my son was a bit sad, but he understood this limit.

Stringing him on with promises of another day or pleading for him to move along in this case for us would just make things worse. A kind and firm final answer of NO, was needed so we could move on.

Please wait:  Being a responsive parent is very important, it shows our children we care about them and helps them feel secure that their needs will be met. However, it’s going be important for children to develop some waiting skills and patience to deal with certain situations in life. As the mom to three children, I often find myself having to divide my attention, so I try to do this with as much love and care as possible. For example,  before I ask my children to wait, I often give them a short explanation and the order in which things will happen so they have a better sense of what to expect.  “I need to make a quick phone call, then we can play a game. Please wait for me in the play room.” I also keep the waiting time appropriate to their individual abilities.

I made a mistake: We all make them, from losing our cool to making a decision we later regret, mistakes are sort of a given in life and well, parenting!  Showing our children we can admit to our mistakes, reflect on them and choose better next time is very important skill, one they can learn by having a safe space in which to make their own mistakes and even more so if they have the chance to hear us own up to our own mistakes.

I am proud of you: It’s not only ok but important to tell our children we believe in them and that we are proud of them. Choose the time carefully, obviously saying “I’m proud of you” while your child is chucking his toys over the balcony sends the wrong message. But at the end of the day, while cuddling together and offering a great big hug and “I’m proud of you!” is a moment your child will cherish forever.  Even better is to be very specific “ I am so proud that you worked hard on your book report and didn’t give up, even when it seemed to be tricky, you stuck to it and look at what you accomplished!”

I’m a bit busy, can you do it alone? It’s important to be present and involved and helpful to our children. It’s really important to encourage our children to explore doing things on their own too. I don’t believe in rushing independence for independence sakes but giving opportunities to our children to do things alone, when appropriate, even when there are struggles is really a wonderful chance for children to learn all sorts of skills.

My daughter wanted an apple recently and I was helping my son with something else. I asked “What if you get the apple yourself?” She beamed with happiness at this prospect and she took off, found her chair, found the apple, washed it, dried, showed it to me “I do it myself!”  and then happily sat down to eat it.

What kind of parenting advice have you run into lately that has made you rethink your choices?

Peace & Be Well,


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Ariadne is a happy and busy mama to three children. She practices peaceful, playful, responsive parenting and is passionate about all things parenting and chocolate. Ariadne has a Masters in Psychology and is a certified Positive Discipline Parenting Educator. She lives on top of a beautiful mountain with her family, and one cuddly dog.

15 Responses to 6 Things You Shouldn’t Be Afraid To Say To Your Child

  1. hi….
    really love this article that you wrote, is so true. and these are all things that i / we currently do in our house…..

    this might not seem like a big deal, but the fact is i had pre natal and post natal depression, and there are sometimes issues with the family, as they seem to think i’m slightly crazy and don’t know what i’m doing…..

    except i know that i do, my sister had a baby the year after me, school teacher / ex child care worker, thinks she knows it all and was breast feeding, baby wasn’t getting anything from the milk and was not growing, she wouldn’t listen and so this shit went on for nearly 10 months…a lot of pple told her, and she still wouldn’t listen. poor baby didn’t cry all the time due to being hungry as he was beyond that and was not crying at all and sleeping through the night at 6-8 weeks, with her bragging about how they were all getting amazing sleep, and he was such a good baby, and all babies are different blah blah blah…..

    when in actual fact he was severely malnourished…..6 months and only 6kg…..she is so lucky that he is still here…..

    i kept telling her but she wouldn’t listen, i wish i had taken it one step further now and called the authorities…..

    anyway main thing is he is kind of ok now, he has developmental delay, approx 6-12 behind. has just turned 2 but is still in some size 1’s….

    So this is why I loved your article, as it just proved to me yet again, that i am doing something right….and this time it’s not me telling myself this it’s coming from someone else !

    So thank you….. you have made my day !
    Best regards,

  2. Don’t you think “no” should always be accompanied by some sort of explanation? I have many memories of being frustrated to tears in childhood by my parents just telling me “no” without any reasons why given, other than the absolutely awful “because I said so”. I can see the child getting upset with “I know you want this and the answer is no”, and I feel like a better response would be “I know you really want this, but you already have so many toys you can play with” or “I know you want this, but we weren’t planning to buy any new toys today”, etc.

  3. That is “I know you really want this, but you already have so many toys you can play with so the answer is no” and “I know you want this, but we weren’t planning to buy any new toys today so the answer is no” (I know the word “no” is important here).

  4. Elizabeth, I see your point, and yes most of the time a short reason, an explanation or an alternative are called for and a very positive way to set a limit. There are also times, given the temperament of the child, relationship dynamics and the occasion when a firm NO can be appropriate. In this case, my four year old would use any and all explanations as a reason to counter argue which I totally appreciate and welcome. I believe it is really important to listen and not squash children’s thoughts. In this particular shopping scenario, which perhaps I should have included, I was shopping with him and three other children. We did talk about the toy later, how much he likes it and we made a plan for him to save up his coins to pay for some of the cost at a later time. But we could only do that in a quiet moment, not in the rush of a large toy store.
    I appreciate the question and agree giving reasons is very important, but at times it is OK to be firm, if the relationship is based on mutual respect and true cooperation and feelings are acknowledged things should be alright. thank you so much for sharing your thoughts!

  5. I see what you mean. I have my own issues with “no” because I got a lot of nos and very few reasons as a kid. I still (at 34) react very strongly to being told by anyone that I can’t do or have something! I have a toddler now, and I am extremely conscious of when I have to say no to her (for safety reasons, etc.) and when I can say something else. Thanks for your response.

  6. I think you are following a really good thought there with your toddler. It’s amazing and unfortunate even what all those NO’s really can do and so this is why so often parents are told to look for alternatives and I couldn’t agree more, we should say yes but also striking a balance is really important. There is def. a difference in how I say “no” to my tot and how I handle it with a “seasoned” negotiator like a four year old 😉

  7. What is wrong with telling your child “Good Job” if they did a good job?

  8. I think it’s fine to praise your child when they actually accomplish something (or is they need encouragement); it becomes a problem when everything they do gets a ‘good job’ at that point ‘good job’ ceases to really be ‘good job’ but instead just a phrase (sounds harsh). I think it is good to be clear in our praising –

  9. I am wondering the same as Scott. I have heard why we should not tell kids, “you’re so smart,” and I definitely get that. But what about “good job?” Not specific enough?

  10. Scott,

    so, it’s not so much that it is wrong but “Empty” praise can actually make a child want to do things less! A child that is praised too often can become insecure, always wondering if their accomplishment has been “good enough” and deserving of a “good job” or uninterested in doing anything unless they know they will be “great” at it. The problem can arise if parents just dish out those “good jobs” at every thing their child does. Take the bed time routine for example, child puts on jammies “good job”, child brushes teeth “good job”, child hangs up towel “good job”…a child is more likely to develop self-discipline and inner motivation if parents after the routine is over says “Johnny, I see you have put on jammies, brushed teeth and hung up your towel all by yourself!” So the problem is with empty praise, not with genuine praise. If your child comes home with a great report card there is a big difference in saying “great job” and “Wow johnny, looks like you have been working hard in school, good for you! you must feel proud of your hard work!” I talked a lot about that in this post Is there such a thing as too much praise?

    thank you for stopping by and for the question!

  11. Frannie,

    yes encouragement goes a long way to motivate as does very specific praise! thank you for your comment!

  12. E,
    the more specific the better absolutely. Great point about the “you are so smart” – it def. goes along the lines of the “good job” where it can actually discourage children because they may start choosing to do things only if they believe others will think they are “smart” for doing it. I answered Scott in below as well! thank you for your comment!

  13. Aside from the answers already given, it also has to do with the child learning SELF worth. By providing approval for every good deed done, the child learns to do good things for you rather than for themselves, for the good feeling. They look to us (and later to partners) for their own value, rather than having a strong self worth themselves.

  14. These are all great things for a parent to remember. I also think that parents should not be afraid of using the correct names and talking about all parts of the body with their children. Clear age appropriate explanations can help kids feel good about their bodies and learn how to protect them, especially the sexual organs.

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