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As parents, we sometimes find ourselves saying the wrong things to our toddlers—leaving them to feel hurt, angry, or confused by our choice of words. Here are some of the phrases you should avoid saying to your toddlers, as well as a few ideas on what you should say instead.

“Don’t cry.”

Toddlers have difficulty articulating their feelings, and so they cry in order to express their emotions. By telling your children to stop crying, however, you are essentially saying that it isn’t okay to feel such emotions. Acknowledge your children’s emotions by saying something such as “It’s okay to cry” or “You must be upset that we can’t play outside today.”

“Leave me alone.”

Mommy and daddy need a break every now and then. However, you should be careful to use the right words when asking your kids for some alone time. Constantly saying, “I’m busy” or “please don’t bother me right now” to your children may make them feel like there isn’t much point in trying to talk to you, and so they may eventually stop trying. If you really need some alone time, say something along the lines of, “I need to make one phone call, then we’ll go to the park when I’m finished.”

“If you do ____, I’ll give you ____.”

There’s no denying that bribery is an effective way of getting a toddler to do something. If done often, however, then it teaches them to expect or even demand something in return for obeying you. In order to motivate your child to help out, offer your genuine gratitude by thanking your toddler when he or she is cooperative.

“Wait until your father/mother gets home.”

If your children need to be disciplined, don’t pass the responsibility on to the other parent. This form of postponed discipline prevents your children from forming the connection between their original action and the discipline. Such situations need to be taken care of right away in order to be effective.

“Why can’t you be more like your brother/sister?”

It may be tempting to use an older sibling or friend as an example for your child to follow. Keep in mind that children develop at their own pace, and also have their unique personalities and temperaments. Constantly comparing your child with someone else isn’t good for his or her self-esteem, and may even imply that you wish that he or she were different.

5 Things You Shouldn’t Say to Your Toddler
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