“We know that if you say ‘stop running!’ the child will hear one of the two words – and it’s not going to be stop”
A parenting expert has highlighted four terms commonly used by mums and dads that should never be uttered – and what to say instead.
Among some of the more surprising additions are compliments like ‘great job,’ which Genevieve Muir says should be done away with.
She appeared on The Morning Show (Australia) to give her advice on why some common parenting styles could do more harm than good.
The mum-of-four went through each phrase one by one, giving examples of changes that can be made.
She started out with the phrase ‘you’re fine’.
She said: “We want our kids to know that they can come to us both when they’re happy and when they’re sad.
“And when we say, ‘you’re ok, you’re fine, dust it off,’ we do this because we want them to be ok, but actually what we want them to know is that sometimes it’s ok to not be ok.”
Instead, Genevieve (aka, Gen) said mums and dads should ask, ‘Are you ok?’
She explained: “That lets our kids know that they can come to us with their problems, long-term.”
Gen, who is well known for sharing her tips on her TikTok profile @connectedparentingau, then went on to phrase number two; ‘be careful.’
She did admit that this term is one that is built in to many parents, and it can be difficult not to say it out loud.
She advised: “As a mum of four boys, I’m going to tell you, I either think this or I say this about a million times a day.
“But actually what we know is that if we overuse ‘be careful’ and we’re hovering over our kids, we’re not giving them the opportunity to take risks and learn how to use their body safely.”
Instead, Gen says: “Actually sometimes – as hard as it is – you want to sort of say nothing. Hold it in, take a deep breath and trust our kids.”
However, when you’d need a phrase in replacement for this, for instance, if your toddler was running towards a busy road, she said: “We know that if you say ‘stop running!’ the child will hear one of the two words – and it’s not going to be stop.
“They’re just going to hear the word running. So what you can say instead is what you want them to do – walking.”
She clarified that instead of using a general phrase like ‘be careful,’ it’s best to point out the danger they face and then ask if they can see it so that they can “build that awareness themselves”.
The third phrase on her list of no-nos is another regularly used one; ‘great job’.
“But if we really want to motivate our kids intrinsically to do well, it’s actually better to do something where we focus more on what motivated them to do well,” she said.
Genevieve went on to say: “There’s no problem with occasionally saying ‘great job’ or ‘good girl’ or ‘good boy’.
The parenting expert said it would be better to ask your little one ‘Wow, you did it all by yourself. How do you feel?’
It can be tricky trying to get your toddler to apologise at the best of times, and so Gen asked: “Hands up if you’ve ever tried to make a young child say sorry. It doesn’t go well, does it?
“They’re like, ‘nope, it wasn’t my fault, I’m not going to say sorry.’
“But what we know from evidence is that it also doesn’t teach kids that underlying ability to be compassionate and empathetic.
“So what I try to do with my kids is get them to check in on the other person.”
She concluded her advice by saying that if you change from telling a child to ‘say sorry’ to asking them if someone else is ok, you’re going to encourage them to develop these skills going forward.
She said: “We come alongside our child and we say, ‘this all went a bit wrong, shall we check in on your brother as he seems to be crying.’
“That allows our kids to do that and that fosters long-term the ability to be compassionate and, eventually, say sorry when we make a mistake.”