Words that are harmful to say before your children: even if you love them

Some kids want to grow up to be pro
basketball players or astronauts; my
daughter on the other hand wants to grow up
to become a unicorn. Lots of parents still tell
their children often that they can grow up to
be whatever they want to be.
Read more That’s all well
and good unless your daughter wants to
become a unicorn or your son is 16 years of
age, only 5’5″, and wants to play for the
Chicago Bulls. If your 16 year old has
unrealistic pro sports dreams without a
backup plan such as a college education or
goals outside of these pro sports dream, then
you are failing them as a parent by saying
“you can be anything you want to be”. The
odds of my daughter becoming a unicorn
when she grows up are zero. I can respond
with “that would be so much fun to become a
unicorn, but we don’t get to change species
when we grow up, although it is fun to
pretend to be a unicorn now though”.
Reality and truth need to go hand in hand with
your advice to your kids. Otherwise, your 16
year old with dreams of becoming a pro ball
player may end up becoming a 25 year old
living in your basement and delivering pizzas
for a living.
Don’t dole out poor advice and absolutes that
simply are not true in the real world. Evaluate
the advice you are giving your kids: Is is true
or realistic? Is it helpful or harmful to them in
the longterm?
It is time to stop using antiquated words of
advice with our children that are actually
doing more harm than good. Turn those
antiquated phrases around by using thoughts,
ideas, and advice that can actually work in
the real world and help them, not harm them.
Below are some of the common words of
advice that parents are still using today that
need to stop, along with suggestions
regarding what should actually be said.

1. “Do as I say, not as I do.”
This is some of the worst advice parents can
give to their children. Children actually learn
more from their parents’ modelling of
behavior, than what they say to them. If
parents are modelling poor behavior then
saying “do as I say, not as I do”, their words
will have little to no impact. Instead, it is
better to acknowledge their shortcomings if
they see their child following in their
footsteps with a particular bad habit. If
parents feel compelled to use such a phrase,
perhaps it is time to reassess their own
For example, if I tell my daughter not to yell
at her brothers, yet that is what I am doing
every day to her and her brothers, perhaps it
is time to look myself in the mirror and work
toward meaningful change in stopping my
own yelling first, so I can model better
behavior. It is hard to teach someone how to
change their behavior if you can’t or won’t do
it yourself. Work to be an example of how you
want your child to act, as you are the most
influential model in their life. Actions speak
louder than words.

2. “Everything will be ok.”
How do parents know everything will be ok?
Parents are not fortune tellers, so sometimes
it’s best not to use that phrase, especially
when it is not helpful.
If your child’s best friend is dying of
Leukaemia, it’s unrealistic and actually
harmful to your child to say “everything will
be ok”. Often to a child that phrase is
internalized that things will turn out how they
want them to turn out. To this child, that
phrase can thus be interpreted in their mind
that their friend will be cured and coming
back to school soon. You don’t know if that is
the case, especially in a situation where
things are deemed “terminal” of “highly
Don’t give your child false hope, as you will
be seen as a liar. It also inhibits their ability
to process the situation. Instead of making
yourself out to be a liar, be realistic. Let your
child know gently and sensitively the reality
of what is possible or likely going to happen .
However, you can also allow them to keep
hope alive at the same time. Don’t try to
delude them of the gravity of the situation by
saying “everything will be ok” if that is
clearly not the case.

3. “Boys don’t cry.”

I don’t know who made up this lie, but it is a
doozy. When parents say this to their sons,
they are denying them their feeling, sending
them the message that they need to hold
back their emotions, and the society ends up
with a whole lot of men who repress their
For decades parents have been telling their
sons that they can’t cry. Why not?
Repressing your emotions is not healthy
emotionally in the long run, nor is it good for
relationships. Allow your boys to turn into
men who can appropriately show their
emotions, including crying.

4. “Push through the pain.”
This lie can do actual physical harm to
children. I was a runner for years and I had a
coach that used to say “you need to run
through the pain”. I was just a teen, but took
those words seriously. I pushed through the
pain and ended up with eight stress fracture
and missing state finals with the team as a
result of the injuries. Pain is a way our body
signals to us that something is not right.
Discomfort is one thing, but to tell a child to
push through actual pain is harmful. Instead,
teach your child to listen to the signals from
their body. Is it discomfort they are feeling or
is it actual pain? Teach them to distinguish
between the two and to get help if they are
truly injured.
My hobby of running was ruined for a
lifetime. Other athletes have done the same,
creating so much injury in their body that
they can never again enjoy their hobby. Don’t
kill your child’s love for a hobby or sport by
making it no longer possible because of a
permanent physical injury.

5. “You can be anything you want to

This was discussed above in the article. A
better approach to this topic of their future is
to be an encouragement to your child in
regard to their hopes and dreams, but also
the voice of reality (in a kind and sensitive
As a parent, help them stay grounded in
reality so that they can set life goals and
ambitions that are attainable. You don’t want
them to feel totally and utterly like a failure in
life when they learn they are not making the
pros with no other goals or prospects for the
future even entertained. Don’t squash
dreams, but help them also think about
realistic and attainable goals, even if you
have to present the idea to them as a
“backup plan”. At least it will get them
thinking about various, more realistic options,
rather than one lofty goal that has less than a
1% chance of happening.

6. “Just be yourself and everything
will be fine.”
This one can be especially hard on kids
socially. Sometimes their behavior or actions
are not socially accepted or welcomed by
friends. If your daughter has a habit of
“giving her friends a piece of her mind” every
time they upset her, because that is just who
she is as a person, then perhaps it’s time to
make some adjustments. Just being yourself
does not always have the best outcome.
Sometimes it has negative outcomes. Your
daughter will lose friends by giving them a
piece of her mind on a regular basis.
Not all of our propensity traits are good ones.
Sometimes we need to learn to manage the
bad ones. More harm than good will be done
in your daughter’s social circle if being
herself alienates people. Let your child know
it’s ok to be themselves unless they are
doing something illegal, unethical, immoral, or
harmful to others.
Being ourselves is not always acceptable to
others and that is something that can help us
decide if we need to make changes in
ourselves or find new friends. The choice for
change is up to each individual, which is
more empowering than the falsehood that if
you act like yourself all will be ok.

7. “Focus on the future and you will
be a success.”
Whatever happened to allowing kids to be
kids? It can do more harm than good when
parents push their kids toward success by
“focusing on the future”. Children in
elementary school do not need to be thinking
about what sports and extra curricular
activities will help them get into a great
college. So many adults and young adults
self medicating with alcohol and drugs just
because they have been stressing about
their future since they were small children.
There will always be a future, stressing about
it in childhood is more likely to lead to earlier
burnout. It is also more likely to push the
child toward bad habits and choices in order
to self medicate and relieve stress. Don’t
push your child toward bad choices or
burnout by stressing them out about their
future. Allow your child to be a child and to
experience the present.
Psychology Today discussed research that
found happy people were more successful in
life. Research also showed that happier
people are better equipped to handle stress
in life. Allow your child happiness by letting
them live in and enjoy the present. Don’t put
their childhood in fast forward by having them
focus on the future. Happy children and
people live their lives in the present and not
the future. Children will be more successful if
you allow them the joy of living in the present
and not the future.

8. “All you need for success in life is
to work hard.”

This piece of advice is a farce that some
families embrace for generations. Just
because someone works 16 hours a day and
does their job well doesn’t mean they are
going to be a success. People can be
working at a dead end job with no chance of
promotion. Working smart will give you a
better chance at success than hard work
Working hard is a good trait, but it needs to
be paired with working smart. Say a family
has two children. They grow up and one
believes that hard work is the key to success
so he stays in the same job working up and
getting promoted, yet he works 16 hours a
day and can only be promoted so far in the
company because he doesn’t have any
special skills. The other child believes in
working smart. This person tries to take
courses and equip himself with new skills.
He selects a career field that is in high
demand. He continues to climb higher in his
career field afterwards. The second sibling
has more opportunities because he isn’t
limited because of not having any skills. The
second sibling sees a career field that is in
demand, so he equips himself with skills
needed in that field. Both have worked hard,
but the second worked smarter because they
aren’t going to dead end in their career
because of not having a degree.
This is just an example. Not all careers and
jobs require special skills or a college
education, but you need to help your child
figure out what their idea of success in their
desired career looks like. Help them see
what decisions need to be made, to make
smarter moves toward achieving that goal.
Work smart to achieve, not overworking
yourself into a dead end.

Every Single Piece of Advice Parents
Give Does Matter
Many parents may have recognized
themselves in some of these advice
scenarios. Most parents mean well, as they
want their children to grow up to be
successful and happy.
However, you can now see that some of the
advice parents are giving needs to be
changed. Recognizing the problem is the first
key toward change. Next is developing a plan
for what you will say the next time the
subject arises.

Having a plan for what you will say will help
you be prepared to provide helpful advice
that will benefit your child in the long term.
Write down your new found advice so that
you can reflect and remember the wisdom or
advice you want to pass onto your child to
help them.


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