No parent is perfect, so we’re all bound to say things we regret now and then. But some parenting mistakes are bigger than others. Luckily, it’s never too late to omit some phrases out of our parenting vocabulary. Here’s a list of 10 things experts say shouldn’t part of your parenting vocabulary.

  1. Clean your plate.You don’t want children to eat more out of guilt, or to please their parents; and you certainly don’t want children to eat more just because there is more food on their plate,” says Roy Benaroch, MD, FAAP, associate clinical professor of pediatrics with Emory University and author of A Guide to Getting the Best Health Care for Your Children.
  2. You’re going to get fat if you eat like that. You also don’t want to make your child terrified to eat or obsessed with every morsel of food he or she puts in her mouth. “This is a judgment that indicates the child’s worth and value is dependent on the scale and the size of their jeans,” says Vicki Hoefle, a professional parent educator.
  3. Why can’t you be more like _________? This is a pitfall for parents, especially when you have one child who acts out and one who behaves fairly reasonably, says Carole Banks, MSW, Parental Support Line Advisor for Total Transformation. “When you use this kind of comparison, it’s hurtful and also pits your children against each other.”
  4. Say you’re sorry. What better way to teach a child to lie and be insincere than by forcing an apology? “And, if all it takes is an ‘I’m sorry’ for all to be forgiven, then why change your behavior? Act out, say you’re sorry and move on,” says Hoefle.
  5. I don’t like that kid. The moment you say you don’t like your child’s friend, that pal becomes instantly more appealing. Unless this friend is putting your child in harm’s way, you’re better off keeping your mouth shut.
  6. I hate you, too! “When you say, ‘I hate you, too,’ to win an argument with your child, you’ve already lost,” says Banks. “You’re not your child’s peer and you’re not in a competition with him. By saying ‘I hate you,’ you’ve just brought yourself down to your child’s level of maturity and left him thinking, ‘If my parent finds me repulsive, then I must be.’”
  7. Don’t cry/Don’t get so upset over this. No parent wants to see their child in distress, but suggesting that he or she keeps those emotions in is unhealthy. “Kids need to feel all emotions, experience them and show themselves they can manage them,” says Tanya Gesek, a licensed psychologist.Don’t take that away from them.”
  8. Wait until Daddy/Mommy gets home. Many parents play good cop/bad cop with the kids and find it doesn’t do much to get their children to behave. “This really says, ‘Fear men, fear fathers and fear anyone who is in a position of authority,” says Hoefle. “Don’t get caught and you won’t have to worry about daddy   coming home.”
  9. If you ever…. We have all done things we didn’t (or don’t) want our parents to know about. The “If you ever…” speech forces kids into a corner where they need to either keep quiet or lie, says Jo Langford, a Seattle-based therapist. “Many kids are afraid to talk to their parents about various topics, and tried unsuccessfully (sometimes with terrible consequences) to deal with something on their own.” Instead, “If you ever…” should be accompanied by encouragement that when/ if these theoretical things happen, “…I want you to come to me.”
  10. You’re so smart. According to Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford University and author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, telling your child how smart they are could make them less curious, less interested in learning, and more reluctant to do anything where they might make a mistake. “It places undue emphasis on intelligence and inherent, fixed traits. By focusing on the process of acquiring knowledge and the ability to overcome challenges, however, parents can foster a growth mindset.”


  • All parents say things they regret, or give helpful advice that can actually do more harm than good.
  • It’s never too late to omit some phrases out of our parenting vocabulary.
  • Advice such as “Clean your plate” or “Don’t eat that” can put an unhealthy emphasis on food.
  • In addition, turning Dad into the bad guy or badmouthing your child’s friend, rarely results in the outcome you want.

Last reviewed by Eva Benmeleh, PhD. Review Date: September 2020


  1. Empowering Parents. 6 Things You Should Never Say to Your Child.
  2. Interview with Tanya Gesek, MD.
  3. Roy Benaroch, MD, FAAP. Clean your Plate.
  4. Interview with Vicki Hoefle, MD.


    1. Asia, thank you so much for your note. We work so hard to make the site easy to use and helpful. It fuels us to see comments like yours! 🙂

  1. Do you which 10 things you should never tell to children ? Just check it out, you may be surprise

  2. Clean your plate
    -how about learn what your child likes and forget about bribing with treats. Look for healthy meals that appeal to your child. Each person likes different foods. Your child is no different. He may be a meat eater or a salad lover or a stuff me with bread kind of kid. Take the time.

    You’re going to get fat if you eat like that.
    -If it’s unhealthy food. Then simple don’t provide it. Get support if you need nutritional education and understanding about what is essential in a kids diet and the alternatives if they dislike certain foods. Educate them of unhealthy eating not about the physical fat consequence but the possible health impact of either overeating or eating food that has no nutritional value.

    Why can’t you be more like _________?
    -every child is different. You can create enmity between sibling. Or give them a feeling of low worth since you want them to be someone else. If you want to see a certain behaviour in you child. Be a role-model then explain why it has value in you eyes.

    Say you’re sorry
    -my kid is so smart she actually questioned me.”why should I say it when I don’t mean it?” Yup. That makes sense. How about teach them why they should be sorry. How it hurt another then they will be sorry and actually mean it when they say their sorry. If forced to say it when they don’t mean it…then it’s a lie. What does that teach them.

    I don’t like that kid
    -I’m sure I am not liked by everyone and therefore everyone has qualities that do not appeal to everyone. So you can share a quality you dislike. Maybe that kid is mean. Or disrespectful, or just plain annoying. Focus on the quality. Do not generalize like only those you like are meant to be liked or as if a kid is bad cause you don’t like them.

    I hate you, too!
    -Really. I can’t believe that these words would come out of any parent. It’s unacceptable. Then again it’s a choice. A bad one. But still a choice. You can use excuses. Like saying it’s not actually true. Your kid has an excuse like hormones, immaturity, and an underdeveloped emotional reservoir. An properly developed adult should be able to have emotional control and not treat your kid like it’s ok to insult them cause they understand than its just mommy letting out their anger and emotion. Like they are an emotional punching bag.

    Don’t cry/Don’t get so upset over this
    -Your basically telling them to repress their emotions and that their emotions are not important to you. How about “why are you so upset?” It may not be what you think they are crying about. Maybe a toy broke. But they may not be crying over the actual toy. They may be crying cause a family member gave it to them and they don’t want them to think that they are ungrateful, or they may think your mad and will never get them anything else, or they may think they are dum because they were clumsy, or it did not belong to them and now they are afraid they will be in big trouble. Just ask why. We all want someone to acknowledge our feeling. It may not solve anything but at least they know they are valued and that someone cares.

    Wait until Daddy/Mommy gets home.
    -talk about instilling fear. How about dealing with it yourself. How fair is it that you have a problem or are trying to get your kid to do something and are not capable of exercising your authority and putting all that burden on your spouse to be the judge and jury when he was not even present when the problem took place. You can always have your spouse back your decision. Yet you still need a backbone to raise kids who will not stomp all over you when your spouse is not around.

    If you ever….
    -talk about threat. That is the right way to get them to not come to you when then find themselves in a pickle. You don’t have to solve their problem. But they will not trust you if you threaten them. How about share the stupid stuff you did as a kid. They will know you will understand and be there for them.

    You’re so smart
    -how about. “Wow look how creative you are. Look at the effort you put into it. Your very detailed in your work.” It takes more effort to praise a quality of their work. Or show how their effort has contributed to a good outcome or how they can add to someone’s point of view with their unique perspective. It’s so easy to say “your smart” but a kid will think. “If only you knew how I messed up.” They won’t think your right. They just won’t tell you.

    1. Those are really great ways of expanding on each point made. I hope others with questions will read your post because it really explained some of the questions in great detail!

  3. What a load of garbage! While there are those I agree with (generally don’t make eating a negative thing), most of these “rules” show no higher thinking at all. I told all of my children they are smart all the time. Know why? They ARE smart! And what’s more, when they were teenagers & trying to get away with something by feigning stupidity, they needed to know that I fully understood that they were NOT morons! As a matter of fact, I still tell them (on a regular basis) that their mommas did not raise any fools. Rule #4 contradicts itself in the description – don’t force an apology but say you’re sorry & move on….wtf? And when my kids screamed that they hated me, you’d better bet I informed them that I was less than thrilled with them. My children were taught that if they were going to dish it out, they’d better learn to take it.

    Long story short(er), these rules were obviously written by someone who has never been around children but believe that because they “took a class” they know better than someone who’s actually raised kids. My oldest is in a committed relationship with his girlfriend & they are raising the cutest grandchild in the world (& no, I’m not biased), my daughter, after putting herself through college & then a stint in the Peace Corps, is happily married & planning her life. My youngest, who is autistic by the way, lives with me & is gently a happy kid. I broke every one of those rules & my kids turned out great. This is all the proof I need.

  4. Very interesting article! I’m shocked at #10. I understand at how this can be a good/bad thing to say to a child but ever for the little ones? :/

    1. I agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Dweck’s research. From a little child’s point of view- it is all about growth and development. They learn things at such a quick pace that every day they pick up on something different. If you focus on their effort and the time, patience, and endurance they have to solve a problem (be it putting on their shoes) to learning to count etc- you are instilling in them a trait that is life long and inherent in them- that in the face of a problem, they don’t back down, instead they try to figure it out. This is a trait that is applicable in all areas of life and as Em B. mentioned, some kids later on may be great at math and have a hard time with reading- it’s not about being smart, but about doing your best, genuinely your best and that is carried through no matter what the subject or the grade.

  5. These are all great tips that I need to ferment when my baby gets older.

  6. I’m surprised anyone would say most of these though I don’t agree with the “clean your plate” or the “I’m sorry” I think that you should explain to them that what they did was hurtful and get them to understand that they should be sorry and then have them apologize just allowing a child to do hurtful things to another and not having to be apologetic is not a good idea

    1. I believe that there is a problem with imposing a hug or “I’m sorry” on anyone without the intent or understanding of what happened. It can become almost an automatic reaction instead of a deep understanding of their experience and that of the person who has been hurt. I believe that Dr. Anderson is stating to not rush into forcing or commanding an “I’m sorry” but to really work through the situation. “You took the ball from Tommy and he is crying now, how does he feel? He looks sad. He looks sad because he was playing with it and you took it, what can you do to make it better?” That line of conversation is more mindful of the situation- it explains to the child antecedent, behavior, and consequence and it is a teachable moment for everyone involved. The parent learns how far their child’s mental processes have developed thus far, the child begins to see that his actions cause reactions in others and must test new ways of dealing with the problem, the other child understands that his feelings are taken into consideration and will try to make amends with the other child.

  7. Some of this is absolutely true- however, there are some untruths as well. I tell my kid to eat his food often- there is no emphasis on weight at all.

    1. I agree, there is a time and tone component as well. Sometimes kids get really distracted during meal time, especially if there are other things going on like the TV. Trying to limit distractions or simply asking- are you hungry now? Can help understand why they may or may not be eating right now.

  8. Great advice. I’m saving this page. I stick to most of them, except “wait until Dad gets home” I’m going to stop that 🙂

  9. I have been told most of these things by my parents when I was young, and I grew up with lots of issues (like anorexia, for example).

  10. Here is the way I see it and everyone’s parenting style is different …. and I don’t need a doctor telling me how to raise my kids either I HATE THAT! I tell my pediatrician to shut up all the time…….. but here is my rant on each one…. #1 is said in a different way …. my kids will not get anything after their
    dinner if they don’t eat what I have given them. I don’t give them alot
    to begin with and if they can’t finish it they won’t get a treat after.

    #2 No I don’t say this cause I know my father had said it to me numerous
    times growing up and I know what it put me threw.

    #3 No I don’t say it that way but I will ask questions if they say failed a test
    what did so and so get?

    #4 This is a must …. I don’t care if they aren’t sorry or not to me its just
    a manners thing! Yea if they aren’t and I think they really should be I will
    talk to them about the situation and explain to them why they should be sorry.

    #5 I know this one from experience and I have not said those exact words but
    have given them real life examples from my experience to see if they can see that
    this is happening with this person and their relationship. But if it’s not getting threw
    their head that way I will make every possible way for them not to hang out or
    ever be with that person as much as possible with out them knowing I am doing it.

    #6 O HELL YEA! I am sorry but when I am mad shit comes out of my mouth I don’t mean
    and same with my kids….. we both know we don’t mean it and our arguments always
    come back to a calm conversation afterwards.

    #7 There are certain times or moments when I have said this to my kids! Cause there is a
    time and a place for certain emotion out burts and there are somethings that don’t need
    all the emotion some kids put forth towards certain things.

    #8 O HELL YEA! Never worked with my kids with me or my husband but if I said I am telling
    Aunt Suzie (which I can’t do anymore but that was a good one) or my mother they will almost
    sh** a brick and know they have done something wrong!

    #9 O YEA! ALL THE TIME!!! ALL THE TIME!!! That to me is showing a child right from wrong!

    #10 I have not specifically said those words but I do say That’s awesome you knew all that
    or WOw you actually got them all right thats great or I can’t believe you figured that out your smarter
    than me!

    *these can be taken so many different ways…… I am sorry people complain about
    how much things have changed since we were younger but my parents did all these things
    except #10 cause I was NOT smart by any means! But I grew up just fine! So, I am sorry
    I have to say 95% of what my parents did when I was growing up I do! I think this is
    the reason why most kids are so rude these days and so disrespectful and why kids are so babied now a days!

  11. Can you discuss other ways to say it? I would love the tips on how to better phrase some of them on the list. Thanks for the article!

  12. very interesting article, really appreciate that i get the chance to read this and help me out. as a first time mom/parents – hubby & i are constantly looking for ways to improve our parenting skills/knowledge & having all this information is extremely helpful.
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Aiden, There is always room to learn and grow, no matter how good or successful our strategies. Glad you are finding these resources through Bundoo so helpful!

  13. I’m having trouble with #10…any further discussion on this one. Is this meant only for our little ones or as they enter adolescence as we’ll?

  14. Wow….. I flunked some of these big time if I am being honest. Guilty of clean your plate, you are so smart, if you ever and sweetie don’t get upset. I have three kids ranging from 12 years to 9 months and over time I have used those. The other comments I have never and would never use. This article has been very interesting and definitely given me some food for thought.

  15. Wow….. I flunked some of these big time if I am being honest. Guilty of clean your plate, you are so smart, if you ever and sweetie don’t get upset. Granted these are not often but I have said them. My kids range from 12year

  16. This is a very interesting article and I am surprised at some of the things that parents may actually say to their children. “You’re going to get fat if you eat like that…..,” will just make a child start to obsess over what they eat and children shouldn’t have to worry about their diets if they have parents who encourage a healthy diet. My daughter definitely has some friends that I am not fond of but I would never tell her that because that is the first thing she would go back and tell to her friend and I would NEVER say “I hate you too.” What an awful thing to say even if you don’t mean it. Say it enough and your children will start to believe it. I do have to say that I am guilty of telling my daughter not to cry because she cries over everything so we try not to make such a big deal about it in hopes that she won’t be so dramatic!


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