Four Words To Use Wisely Around Children

How often do you say 'No!' around your kids? Chances are, you do it more often than you realize. As parents, we do it instinctively - we don't want our children to harm themselves, after all. But it is also easy to get carried away with this instinct. The controlling urge that we have as carers and protectors makes us think that we ought to tell our children exactly what and what not to do.

Children, on the other hand, are different creatures. Young children, especially, are easily excited by everything. Which means that they'll make messes (lots of them!), they'll do naughty things and they'll get into trouble. Of course, you can't let them get away with everything. But if you stop to think for a moment, your cautionary directives could stand in the way of creativity and exploration (as much as your non-verbal cues do).

Now, it's not like you're damaging your child by letting them have a free run but my point is that there are certain words and phrases we as parents should use wisely.


We often blurt this out without really knowing what the kids are going to do. We assume that they're what they are doing is unsafe, but they're probably as cautious as we are. Sometimes, you just have to wait and watch, and let them explore the world around them. If they are indeed doing something dangerous, scream it at the top of your lungs by all means! But in other cases, try to say something positive (Just be careful/That's a big step/Mind your head) or divert them to something else. You can also try asking them what they're doing when you catch them doing something absurd, such as licking the wall. Saying it aloud might surprise them into realizing their mistake!


This word is like saying No, but in a more commanding manner. Chances are, you'll be ignored if you try to tell kids what not to do. It's easier, instead, tell them what you would like them to do. But make sure you don't ask them to do it, because given a choice, they'll choose not to!

You can't do that!

This really brings your child's abilities into question, in their own head. Then, they'll want to pursue their ambition no matter what. Instead, offer to help them or use the good old distraction method.

Bad boy/girl!

This is a phrase that can do more harm than good. A young child will react negatively to this phrase, whether directed at them or someone else. Remember, it is the action that you have to call bad and not the child. Point out what the child did was wrong (such as hitting), and tell them what they should do instead - such as let an adult know if they were hit by another child.

Being a positive parent, doesn't mean giving up your authority as a parent, but that you work with the child for a positive outcome. Importantly, don't feel guilty about having to impose limitations and saying No. Walk your children through why something isn't right for them to do, and how it isn't the end of the world.

Check out my post on Six Shifts Towards Positive Parenting for more tips for imbibing positivity in your parenting. 

Love this quote I found on Pinterest, from Barrel of Oranges

Positive Parenting 4666721348896425211

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Stephanie said...

I try to be careful, but a big wake-up call for me was when I noticed our daughter saying things to her stuffed animals that we'd said to her. I became a lot more aware of my words after that.

Tarana Khan said...

They soak up every little thing and that's also the problem. Thanks for stopping by!

Unknown said...

I catch myself doing this at times. I recently made it a point to never say stuff like, "are you being a good girl?" because it implies they are being "bad" and I dont want my little one to think that so I have been saying stuff like "please be a good listener for mommy" which is something she actually wants to be. She often says to me, "am I being a good listener?" and she is happy when I tell her she is.

Tarana Khan said...

That's a very good point, Linda. Positive words make all the difference.

Unknown said...

It's so hard as a parent to get the right balance of good discipline but without knocking their individual characters out of them. It also doesn't help that every child is different, I say NO a lot more to my daughter than I do my son #PoCoLo

Tarana Khan said...

I agree, it depends a lot of the child. Everything is subjective when it comes to them!

SarahMummy said...

Interesting post. And I'm also quite pleased that I don't really use these phrases! 'No' is the only one I ever say. I am obviously more positive than I give myself credit for! Popping over from PoCoLo.

Tarana Khan said...

Good to hear that! Thanks for stopping by!

mumturnedmom said...

Interesting post - I am guilty of saying 'no' far too much, and probably 'don't' a bit too often. I completely agree that positive phrasing is so much better, and in my experience more likely to get the desired result! Popping over from PoCoLo.

Shayna Murray said...

We make a point of never telling our daughter she is "bad". We will say what you are doing is naughty, etc. but we never generalize and put a label on HER, just the behavior :)

Unknown said...

I'm so with you on this. I have always 'explained' things to Grace rather than told her no or just told her off for the sake of it! Great post. Thank you so much for linking to PoCoLo - sorry for the delay in commenting xx

Tarana Khan said...

Happy to read all your thoughts on the subject. Thanks for sharing them!

The Monko said...

Some great advice here, I'm featuring you on the Sunday Parenting Party this weekend

Tarana Khan said...

Thanks, that's wonderful!

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