What are words that we should not say to our children?

Words can be swords. Both the substance and the style of our said words matter. We can adjust the tone of our words. Either consciously or unconsciously, either positive or negative, we inherit some parenting aspects from our parents. Our own children give us a chance to become the parents we wish that we had.

If a child lives with criticism,
She learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility,
He learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule,
She learns to be shy.
If a child lives with shame,
He learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance,
She learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement,
He learns confidence.
If a child lives with praise,
She learns to appreciate.
If a child lives with fairness,
He learns justice.
If a child lives with security,
She learns to have faith.
If a child lives with approval,
He learns to like himself.
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship,
She learns to find love in the world.


  1. Respect our children as we respect our inspiring leaders or important clients. Instead of saying “Hurry up!“, say “Let’s hurry,” which sends the message that the two of you are on the same team.
  2. Minimize threats because threats are rarely effective and empty threats weaken the influence of parents. Be very, very consistent and as consistent as humanly possible. Instead of saying “No dessert unless you finish your dinner“, say “First we eat our meal and then we have dessert.”
  3. Do not compare a little child to his/her siblings, friends or other children, hypercritical parents tend to do this destructive action often. Why? Such an action can affect his/her self-confidence and self-worth. Each child, like each of us, is unique with his/her own temperament and personality. On average, people’s personalities are about half genetically determined and half environmentally determined.
  4. Do not say negative words, such as “you are stupid!” [1] To a child a parent’s word means everything. Young children believe what they hear without question, even when it’s about themselves. Be careful not to transform negative labels into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Say more positive words that make our children feel neither superior nor inferior to others. Instead of “Super game,” say, “That was a nice assist. I like how you looked for your teammate.
  5. Do not say “do not be like your Mum / Dad,” because father and mother are role models of children, they look up to Dad and Mum.
  6. Do not say “you are too young to know.” Children are naturally curious, we can always explain things adjusted to their age and experience.
  7. Do not scold a little child when s/he falls, fails or has not succeeded, especially due to not listening to our advice. The first thing that s/he needs is empathy. Give him a hug and acknowledge what he is feeling by saying something like, “That was a scary fall.” Then ask whether he would like a bandage or a kiss (or both).
  8. Be a role model in our words (to other people including nice/rude people, rich/poor people) and actions (e.g. reading). Practice self-control of many aspects of our lives, including finance. Instead of saying “we cannot afford that” (implying parents are not in control of their finances), say “We’re not going to buy that because we’re saving our money for more important things.”
  9. Praise only those accomplishments that require real effort and praise specifically.

Follow McBride’s favorite safety mantra, tell our children: “If anyone makes you feel sad, scared, or confused, you need to tell me right away.

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[1] On 20180310, after spending a lot of efforts to prepare for dance steps for Little Prince who declared that he wanted to participate in the audition for the talent show in his school, I was annoyed that he wanted to continue playing with his airplane instead of practicing. Then, he stomped his foot so hard that I was worried he would injured himself, so I reminded him for many times until I lost my patience and uttered that such an action of self-hurting oneself is stupid. However, Little Prince, our sensitive/empathetic little gentleman, immediately cried thinking that I was scolding him stupid. Later, I remember where I learned such a frustration. Papa and mama, when they were younger parents, amid their stress of earning money to feed us, did lose patience on me, their first child and I felt very sad for papa words that “I’m stupid in many things, except my school work” for I was a hardworking child; I really do not want to transmit this pattern of negativity to my children. Instead, I want to nurture inner strength in my children, given our limited time together. Soon, they will be like the baby panda who explores on his own after learning independence.

After Little Prince calmed down, I explained to him that I have never scolded him stupid for I think that he is a creative one and more intellectual than me. I asked if he would forgive me for the misunderstanding. He said Yes, and gave me an airport with flowers made of lego. Thank you for allowing me opportunities to practice more patience. Mama loves you.



  1. […] people, be grateful but do not expect gratitude from others. Be careful not to use our words as swords especially against people who care and love us or whom we love, yet learn to endure swords-like […]


  2. […] our words carefully because words can be swords. For example, "you don’t have to go to a meeting; you get to go meet with other people. […]


  3. […] cook for us, the peaceful feeling while Little Prince is sleeping, the joy of reading books to and communicating with him. All these are […]


  4. […] cook for us, the peaceful feeling while Little Prince is sleeping, the joy of reading books to and communicating with him. All these are […]


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