What you should never say in front of your kids

I have read so many articles and posts about ‘what you should do’ as a parent. There are things on each and every one of those articles that I strongly agree on, and things that I strongly disagree on.

I am not a perfect parent, I have admitted that before and do so again and again without shame. Because as far as I’m concerned, admitting you are not perfect at something is the only way to push yourself harder towards that perfection.

I want to be the best mother I possibly can be. The only way I can do that is to admit my faults and work towards fixing them.

However, these lists. These lists I keep seeing everywhere basically make parents feel ‘if you do/don’t do this, you’re a terrible parent’ or ‘if you say/don’t say this, your kids will turn out damaged’.

Seriously? We all have to deal with so much unnecessary judgement and expectation from complete strangers regarding our parenting every single day! Now there are these rules, (I swear they never used to be around!) that you will screw your kid up for life if you say ‘good job?’

parenting, police


I’m torn. I know there is merit to this advice. There have been studies. I also know I turned out fine (mostly) despite being told ‘good job’. Likewise, I know what probably shook my confidence.

I know my son will turn out great regardless. But now I have this extra pressure; the added stress of awareness that with every compliment I should be wording it a certain way for ‘maximum parenting bonus’.

Some days you will be tired, you will be distracted and you will say ‘well done’ or something similar, when your toddler babbles something at your poor defeated self, your kid will smile from the compliment, but you probably won’t see it.

Other days you will feel great, be involved in the activity and perfectly craft your response (‘Wow, you worked so hard and really put in a lot of effort, I’m so proud of what you achieved!’ etc) Then your toddler will beam at you and you’ll feel like an A+ parent for supporting their emotional development!

That first response doesn’t make you a failure or a bad parent, it just makes you human.

The problem, for me, is that these articles so rarely focus on what I see as the real issues.

They all seem to focus on how we address our kids, or how we describe them, or how we praise their actions. That’s great, but I’d like to see more on how we address each other in front of them, how we describe ourselves in front of them, or how we react to our own actions.

So I decided to write my own about what really matters for their futures.

Five things you should never, ever say in front of your kids.

  1. ‘I’m so fat/ugly.’

    lady, flat stomach, skinnyAsk yourself, do you want your son/daughter to grow up thinking they are ugly? Do you want them to look at their perfectly healthy figures in the mirror and starve themselves because they see themselves as fat?

    Of course you don’t. But unfortunately by saying negative things about yourself and your body in front of them, you are already programming them to see themselves in a negative light.

    If an impressionable young girl hears a perfectly slim woman say ‘I’m fat’ often enough, she will begin to believe that a healthy body shape/weight is ‘fat’ and begin to starve herself or hate herself, if her body is not super skinny to reflect what she has been programmed to believe.

    This one is first on the list because it is probably the most common, worst of all it is also the one most people don’t even realise they are doing.

    How many times have you dropped an offhand comment about yourself in front of the kids like ‘Ugh, I look so ugly in that picture’, or someone has complimented you on your figure and the first thing you reply with is ‘thanks, but I need to lose weight.’

    Try complimenting yourself in front of them instead. You might find it has an effect on you too.

    2. ‘Girls (or) Boys should/shouldn’t/don’t etc’

    As society slowly (slowly) learns to stop being ridiculous and accept the LGBT community as it should, there also needs to be a good look at ‘Gender Enforcing’.

    No I’m not talking about forcing your little boy to play with a doll, or giving your little girl racing cars and telling them to embrace their inner femininity/masculinity. I’m talking about letting go of the ridiculous idea that those sorts of toys are only for one gender in the first place.

    The next time you go to a play group with your toddler, watch the choices they make in play. Chances are they just pick up whatever catches their attention. My son loves playing dress up, he puts on the fairy wings and high heels and then goes off to play knights and superheros. The other week he was running around in a Buzz Lightyear costume with glittery high heeled dress up shoes.

    gray, dress, play
    I think this is my favourite so far…

    A friend of mine has a little boy who loves pushing the baby prams around at baby group, then goes home and obsessively watches Kung Fu Panda and plays football.

     Another friend has little girls who love their Train table and dinosaurs.

    The point is, by telling a child they are not allowed to play with a toy because ‘only girls or boys play with that toy’, you are only restricting your child from a full play experience.

    We’ve seen where the ‘only girls play with dolls’ mindset leads. Do we really want another 1950s generation who don’t want to help their wives take care of the baby because ‘that’s a woman’s job’?

     3.Reinforcing Rape Culture

    We all know what I’m talking about here. ‘Boys will be boys’, ‘she shouldn’t have been wearing that’, ‘she shouldn’t have been drinking’, etc

    Whenever I see a news story with those phrases, it makes me feel physically sick.

    I am so tired of hearing our society trying to teach girls how not to get raped, when we should be teaching our sons that it is never okay to rape, and what rape actually is.

    The excellent ‘Consent and Tea’ video sums it up beautifully.

    One thing I feel very strongly that my sons will never hear is things like ‘Well what do you expect If she was wearing that!’ Or in other words, Victim Blaming. If anyone says such a thing in front of my sons, they can expect a swift and brutal re-educating.

    Saying things like that in front of children only enforces the idea that the victim is the one at fault, or somehow deserved it. This is never the case.

     4.Spreading negativity about others

    We’ve all done it. We’ve all been guilty, at one point or another, of having a good rant when someone has annoyed us. It could be a friend, family member, co-worker or complete stranger.

    The offence could be as small as accidentally spilling tea on your carpet. Or as big as trying to seduce your husband! Depending on your mood the reaction could be out of proportion or perfectly reasonable.

    But have you stopped to think; how will the kids feel if they hear you declare ‘Cousin Sherryl* is such a fat cow, she’s such a liar!’ In your moment of weakness?  (*I don’t actually have a cousin Sherryl, this is an example, I promise!)

    If our kids hear negativity towards others, particularly insults that are gender or appearance based, how long do you think before points 1, 2 and 3 start becoming a problem?

    It brings to my mind the movie they made of the comedy show ‘South Park’, an animated show about kids but very, very not safe for kids. In the movie, the mothers of the main characters declare war on Canada over the content of a movie. (The whole plot is satire at its best!)

    They argue, and I quote ‘Horrific, deplorable violence is okay, as long as people don’t say any naughty words!’ (I know, it is deliberately ridiculous, I promise.)

    This kind of mindset is exactly what makes this point so troubling. We don’t want our kids to bully others, or be misogynistic, racist, homophobic, judgemental or just plain cruel. But how can we discipline them for using inappropriate or negative language towards others?  We’ve unwittingly taught them that saying those things are acceptable when you’re mad?

    If you must have that rant, just make sure little ears aren’t in range.

     5. Creating a Negativity Cycle.

    This particular point is directly related to my NATs (Negative Automatic Thoughts) series. Particularly Part 2, which discusses ‘downward spirals and fortune telling’.

    This is where you find yourself facing a problem, (perhaps your car failed the MOT etc) and allowing this problem to spiral out of control.

    A typical NATs spiral of thought could go: The car failed? Oh that means we won’t be able to afford to go off next week. If we can’t afford to do that we’re going to be stuck at home. Everyone is going to be miserable. If we’re all miserable the rest of the month will be completely ruined. We’ll never be able to relax and will fall out. Nothing will ever go right from now on, we won’t be able to afford Christmas presents etc

    I know that sounds utterly ridiculous by the end there, but unfortunately this is a very real issue for a lot of people, myself included.

    Sometimes my thoughts just turn out like that.

    Usually I’m lucky enough that I can pull myself out of the funk within a day or two by addressing it with logic. Or something will happen (the repairs are much cheaper than expected, for example) and I will realise things aren’t all that bad.

    But can you imagine if, in the darkest part of this downward spiral, I rant about my feelings where my kids can hear me?

    gray, back

    I have been guilty of that before. Maybe my baby is too young to understand but my eldest now isn’t. Besides, even a baby can pick up on the negative vibes in a room if the adults are stressed.

    Can you imagine the distress a toddler could be feeling if they hear their parent exclaim ‘We’re going to lose our house!’ A child has no way of understanding that this is just ‘fortune telling’ and isn’t actually a possibility.

    I do not, under any circumstances, want my son to face the world with NATs like mine. I cannot imagine him feeling so low after something so small and insignificant goes wrong.

    I want my sons to know that no matter what goes wrong, there is always a way to overcome it. There is always a way to fix your problems and move forwards.

    I know that they may end up with demons of their own through no fault of mine, but I’ll be damned if I’ll be responsible for one I could have prevented.

    So there you have it, my ‘list of parenting advice’ or whatever. I don’t know if people will hate or love this list, agree or disagree, or maybe not be bothered either way. It’s not there to judge. All of my posts have always been meant to be about helping and supporting each other.

    I just wanted to see at least one advice post out there that doesn’t tell me I’m failing at parenting if I say ‘good job.’



Read my follow up post, Why we should apologise to our children, here!

What are your opinions on the eternal parenting debate? Do you feel overwhelmed by all the expectations of today’s society on parents? Leave a comment below!

Pink Pear Bear


Hot Pink Wellingtons

34 thoughts on “What you should never say in front of your kids”

  1. You know what? I think it’s more important to say ‘good job’ than it is to say nothing. What matters is that their effort doesn’t go unnoticed. If you can craft your response, explaining what they did to reach that achievement, then great. But if they’ve just worked their arses off on something and you don’t even look, or worse, look but say nothing because you can’t articulate an ideal and are scared to say the wrong thing, how is that going to affect their motivation? Self-sufficiency? I grew up with a parent who only criticised and rarely complimented- he thought it would motivate me but I just used to feel crushed that I had given everything I had to a project only for it to not be good enough.
    There’s an approach in teaching called ‘kiss, kick, kiss’- if you DO have to give constructive feedback, sandwich it between praise so that they take on the information needed while still being proud of their achievement: for example, “You must have worked really hard on this! You need to be a bit more careful when colouring so it stays inside the lines, but it looks amazing! I’m putting it on the fridge!”

    1. I absolutely agree with the kiss-kick-kiss method for sure and yes, I’d rather they hear a good job than nothing! I read a quote somewhere that ‘the opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference’ and I think it applies to motivation and encouragement also. Though I imagine that always being criticised must have been awful 🙁

  2. Girl, you are singing my song. I tell my kids they are doing a good job all the time. They love it. When they are disappointed that its not a good job, I tell them its ok if they are disappointed, I also tell them that having fun or doing your best is as important as having fun.

    My son dresses as a princess with his sister. They have a blast.

    thank you for sharing these SENSIBLE words 🙂
    Bee recently posted…How I survived my darkest days – an ode to Marian KeyesMy Profile

  3. Thanks for this really thought provoking post. I also try follow the ‘you put in lots of effort’ kind of comments and I am very conscious about the weight issues. However my annoyance does get the better of me in the car some times, especially when people cut me up or don’t indicate. And that’s not the kind of behaviour I want to model for my kids! x #bigpinklink
    Becky at PinksCharming recently posted…REVIEW: The Handmade Fair, A Craft Addict’s DreamMy Profile

    1. Thanks Becky, when my eldest was younger I realised I was being pretty verbal with my driving annoyances and that the words i was using were ones i’d usually try not to use in front of him! I’ve tried hard and find i’m much more relaxed in the car now! x

  4. I didn’t even know saying ‘good job’ was a bad thing! It’s surely better than saying ‘crap job – try harder!@ or even not noticing them at all? I think that’s the crux – good parents constantly beat themselves up that they should be even better. I think you are right, we could do far more damage with all kinds of negativity and negative messages about various things. Good points, well made. #BigPinkLink
    Cal at Family Makes recently posted…Ticking Off Our Bucket & Spade ListMy Profile

  5. I’ve also read the whole ‘you shouldn’t say good job’ debate, and I won’t be taking too much notice!! I will always give positive reinforcement when my children show me something they’ve done, that they’re clearly proud of! I have loads of memories of showing my parents lots of really rubbish craft attempts, when I was little, and their response was always really overly gushing. All I can remember, is feeling all fuzzy and glowing at their praise, and it hasn’t messed me up as an adult either!!
    I agree with the 5 things on your list-although I am guilty of doing some of them. My boys love My Little Pony, and love pushing dolls in prams. I have no problem with these choices-but my husband, and inlaws do. They are constantly telling the boys to their faces that these are girls choices, or the wrong choices. It makes me very angry. However, I did then have a rant about my inlaws to my mum, in front of the boys yesterday…! But I am trying not to do this! Thanks for a very insightful article-we can all learn from this!!
    This Mum’s Life recently posted…How Not To Do A Spin ClassMy Profile

    1. Thank you for commenting! I agree it can be hard when your family members don’t think the same way, I remember a friend telling me it broke her heart when she found her son hiding in the corner at a play group because he didn’t want his dad to see him trying on the girly dress up shoes. I find it absolutely crushing to think a small child (I believe he was only 4/5 at the time) felt ashamed of just wanting to play with a certain toy because of their parents! xx

  6. This is brilliant. Very thought provoking, it’s certainly given me food for thought.
    Re consent and tea, a friend of mine flagged this up to me when I was discussing the horrendous Brock Turner case. I watched it and immediately thought it was such a well made video. It makes SUCH an important point and I think everyone should watch it! #sharingthebloglove
    Rach recently posted…Is Marriage The Kiss Of Death?My Profile

    1. Thank you Rach, I quite agree on the tea video! I wish it were mandatory for sex ed classes in schools! Wouldn’t that be something! x

  7. This is so true. As my son is beginning to understand more I have really thought about what I want to be saying to him, how to encourage him etc and what you have said is so so true. I think your five points absolutely sum it up, thank you. I hope I can reinforce positivity with him. I always think about when I was in town and a little girl held up her hand for her mum to hold and she turned away. I wanted to go and grab her hand myself! I know I can’t always be there for all my sons needs, but I hope I can meet then whenever I can. Thanks #sharingthebloglove
    Soppymum (Sara) recently posted…Period facts! (Including Disney made a film!!!)My Profile

    1. Sara, Thank you so much for such a lovely comment, I’m glad you liked the post! Tha poor girl, I also have a similar memory of seeing something like this happen, it breaks my heart! xx

  8. This is such a great list. I have to admit I have been guilty of number four on a number of occasions and always regret it afterwards so I’m really making a conscious effort to nip this in the bud when I feel myself about to pass judgment on someone or something.
    Alana – Burnished Chaos recently posted…Exploring Lowther CastleMy Profile

  9. I saw that headline this week too about saying ‘good job’ to our kids. I didn’t read the full article, but surely there are bigger things to worry about? I agree totally with all of these points. The one that really made me stop and think was the negative cycle – I’m definitely guilty of that. Taking one problem, and making it feel like everything in the world is wrong. My husband is great at picking me up on this and making me pinpoint the problem and realise that either it’s not that big, or that it can be solved. Thanks so much for joining us again at #SharingtheBlogLove
    Katy – Hot Pink Wellingtons recently posted…Me & Mine: A Family Portrait in SeptemberMy Profile

  10. I think this is so true, but also so difficult to not do! I am really unhappy with my body at the moment and therefore I often moan about how fat I am (whilst eating cake). I dont have a healthy relationship with food or with myself and I do worry that this will be passed down to Little R. I need to make an effort to stop though, she is beautiful and I never want her to starve herself #sharingthebloglove

    1. Hi Catherine, I’m sorry to hear you are unhappy! Have you thought about writing out a game plan? Making a list of how much weight you want to lose, your worst foods, ways you think you could make healthy swaps, times you could fit exercise it, types of exercise you would consider etc? It really helps with putting everything in perspective and making the goals and hurdles ahead seem much smaller and easier to accomplish! Good luck xxx

  11. Really interesting post and it is difficult isn’t it, as it can seem like there is so much you should or shouldn’t say… And that’s a lot of pressure. But, parenting is a huge responsibility and we need to take that seriously and be aware of what we say and how it could affect our kids. We are all human and will say the wrong things sometimes but I hope to balance it out and prevent certain mindsets from developing. Oh and I have nats too, though I’ve never heard them called that before, and definitely try and keep those from the kids! Xx #twinklytuesday

    1. Hi Caroline, thank you for commenting! I have written several posts related to NATs previously, I hope you find them relatable and helpful! xx

  12. Great post – I always say good job to my girls I didn’t even realise it was a bad thing to say!! I am more conscious of what I say in front of my girls especially as they are now listening and at times questioning. It can be hard though! #sharethebloglove
    natalie recently posted…Me and My BumpMy Profile

  13. Great post, and we are mindful to never say these things. The big one for me is to never criticise my appearance infront of the children. Having battled anorexia for 15 years, although now recovered, I worry a lot about the children picking up on any negativity I have with my boy, and I lead by example. It’s so easy to affect our children with throwaway comments. #coolmumclub

    1. Thank you. Yes, that one is a hard one. I want to raise my boys to understand consent culture, respect women and never body shame, which this point definitely has an effect on I feel! xx

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