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As parents, the phrases we use when speaking to our kids (or even just around them) not only reflect our beliefs about the world, but they also influence the beliefs they develop.
Although some of the phrases you’re used to saying regularly might seem harmless, they can cause your kids to grow up with a victim mentality — or to believe that they can’t succeed.
Here are five toxic phrases parents should strip from their vocabulary:
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1. “We’ll never afford that.”
If something you really want is out of your price range, don’t insist that you can never have it simply because money is holding you back.
Instead, show your kids that you have control over your finances. You could say, for example, “My dream is to buy a big house for us one day. But since we don’t have the financial means right now, I’m going to take some online classes so I can grow my skills at work and get a raise.”
2. “You make me so mad.”
As parents, it’s important to stay calm and resist the urge to blame our kids — or anyone else, really — for our emotions.
Instead of acting out of rage over something your kid did, a healthier response would be, “I don’t like it when you do that,” and then explain why. It’s important for kids to understand how their behavior can affect others. This will encourage them to be more aware of other people’s feelings.
3. “I hate my job.”
Let’s say you had an exhausting day at work and you just want to go home and vent to your partner. It might seem harmless because you weren’t even speaking directly to them, but keep in mind that kids do pick up on this messaging.
Complaining about your job around your kids teaches them that work isn’t fun. As a result, they may grow up believing that adulthood is about spending half of your waking hours in complete misery.
4. “I have to go to the store.”
Whenever you say that you have to do something, whether it’s running an errand or going to dinner at Grandma’s house, you imply that you’re being forced to do things you don’t want to do.
Instead, show your kids that you’re in control of your own time: It’s up to you to decide what you’re going to do, as well as when and how you’re going to do it. You can teach them this important lesson by saying something like, “I don’t feel like grocery shopping today, but I want to make sure we have food in the fridge for the week,” or “I’m tired, but we told Grandma we’d go to her house. And I want to make sure I keep my word.”
5. “Everything will be okay.”
If your kid didn’t get picked as a starting player for their sports team, convincing them that everything will always turn out well won’t prepare them for the future.
Rather than telling them that there’s always a happy ending, teach them that they’re strong enough to handle life’s inevitable curveballs.
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