Home Family Early Childhood Raising Resilient Kids. 5 Phrases to Banish and What to Say Instead

Raising Resilient Kids. 5 Phrases to Banish and What to Say Instead


Parents aim to rear children who are not only successful but also emotionally robust. According to leading psychotherapists, the route to achieving this is by fostering mental resilience from an early age. However, even well-intentioned parents can inadvertently use language that hampers this objective. This article unveils five phrases you should avoid when raising mentally tough children and offers alternatives to guide them better.

1. Telling a Child to “Calm Down”

Telling a child to “calm down” may seem like a harmless directive aimed at defusing a tense or emotional moment. However, this seemingly simple phrase carries a substantial drawback. It fundamentally disregards the child’s emotional state. When you say “calm down,” it’s as if you are sweeping their feelings under the rug, creating a sense that their emotions are not valid or important. This can also discourage the child from sharing how they feel in the future, reducing emotional intelligence and self-awareness.

The Ideal Alternative

Instead of instructing them to “calm down,” a more empathetic approach is to say, “It seems you’re really upset right now.” This statement acknowledges the child’s emotional state without judgement. It opens the door for a constructive conversation, allowing the child to explore their feelings further. This recognition can be incredibly validating for the child, reinforcing the idea that their feelings are important and worth understanding.

Parenting Tips

After acknowledging their emotional state, the next step is to help them cope with those feelings in a constructive manner. For example, guide them towards activities that are known to alleviate stress or diffuse tension. Activities such as listening to calming music, coloring, or engaging in some form of physical activity like running can be effective ways to deal with heightened emotions. The idea here is to equip your child with the tools they need to manage their own emotional states. By doing so, you are empowering them to become emotionally resilient individuals, capable of handling life’s ups and downs in a healthy way.

The Long-term Benefits

Consistently acknowledging your child’s emotions and offering constructive ways to deal with them can lead to a plethora of long-term benefits. Not only does it build a stronger parent-child relationship based on trust and open communication, but it also helps the child develop strong emotional intelligence. Children who are adept at understanding and managing their own emotions are often more empathetic, more successful in school, and better able to navigate social situations.

2. “Don’t Worry About It”

When you tell a child, “Don’t worry about it,” you may have good intentions, like wanting to reassure them or minimize their stress. However, this phrase comes with its own set of issues. Most significantly, it tends to negate or dismiss a child’s real concerns, making them feel unheard or invalidated. This dismissal can also stifle emotional growth because it doesn’t provide the child with tools to manage their worries constructively. It simplifies complex emotions into something that should just “go away,” which is rarely how emotions work.

A More Thoughtful Alternative

Instead of brushing off their worries, a more enriching approach would be to ask, “If your friend was worried about this, what advice would you give?” This tactic does something vital; it helps children step out of their emotional turmoil and think rationally about the situation. It allows them to view the problem from a third-person perspective, often making it easier to see a solution or a way to cope. Plus, it subtly encourages empathy, as it asks them to consider what guidance they would offer to someone else in a similar situation.

Parenting Tips

Helping your child step out of a situation emotionally doesn’t mean they should ignore their feelings. Instead, it equips them with a powerful skill: emotional distancing, which enables them to view a problem with more objectivity. This is a vital life skill that can help them make better decisions, manage stress more effectively, and approach life’s challenges with a balanced perspective. You can further cultivate this by discussing the advice they would give to a friend and then guiding them to apply that advice to their own situation. In doing this, you help them realize that they already possess the wisdom to cope with their worries; they just need to apply it.

Long-term Implications for Emotional Well-being

Teaching children to approach their concerns rationally rather than dismissing them leads to long-lasting benefits. This strategy encourages self-awareness, better decision-making, and the ability to handle stress and challenges more effectively as they grow. It also fosters an environment of open communication and emotional support, where children feel their concerns are taken seriously.

3. The Risk of “Don’t Ever Let Me Catch You Doing That Again”

When parents say, “Don’t ever let me catch you doing that again,” the message sent to the child can be fraught with unintended lessons. While the aim may be to deter certain behaviors, it inadvertently teaches children to become secretive about their mistakes rather than openly discussing and learning from them. Children might interpret this as a warning that being “caught” is the problem, not the behavior itself. As a result, they may focus on hiding their actions better in the future rather than understanding why it was wrong or problematic to begin with.

A Constructive Alternative

Instead of the initial phrase, try saying something like, “If this happens again, let’s talk about better ways to handle it.” This opens the door for a constructive dialogue about the behavior in question. It shifts the focus from the secrecy and the ‘not getting caught’ aspect to understanding the root causes and consequences of their actions. This approach turns a potentially negative experience into an opportunity for growth and learning.

Parenting Tip

Creating a space where children feel comfortable sharing their mistakes can be powerful for their emotional and ethical development. When you encourage an open dialogue about errors and the lessons that come from them, you’re also teaching children to be introspective and accountable. They learn that making a mistake is not the end of the world; rather, it’s a stepping stone towards becoming a better person. This will also enhance your relationship with your child, establishing trust and mutual respect.

The Lifelong Benefits of an Open Dialogue

Developing a healthy approach to mistakes and failures has significant, long-lasting implications for a child’s life. In an environment where they are encouraged to discuss and rectify their mistakes, children not only learn to be honest but also become better problem-solvers. They gain the emotional maturity to recognize the impact of their actions, leading to responsible behavior in the long run.

4. The Trap of Saying “You’re the Best!”

Telling your child “You’re the best!” can be a double-edged sword. While it may serve as an immediate confidence booster, it sets the stage for future stress and unrealistic expectations. Children may internalize this praise as conditional upon them always being at the top. This mindset can lead to excessive anxiety over performance and fear of failure. Moreover, believing they have to be the “best” to earn parental approval can hinder a child’s ability to enjoy activities without the pressure of needing to excel in them.

A Balanced Alternative

Rather than lavishing them with the title of “the best,” try saying, “I am proud of how hard you worked.” This shifts the focus from the outcome to the effort, reinforcing the value of hard work, perseverance, and the journey toward achieving a goal. It sends the message that you appreciate their commitment, regardless of whether they came in first or not.

Parenting Tip

Praise should ideally recognize and encourage a range of positive attributes like effort, kindness, perseverance, and integrity, rather than just a successful outcome. Make a conscious effort to acknowledge how your child dealt with challenges, how they managed their time, or how they treated others in the process of reaching their goals. This balanced approach to praise contributes to a healthier, more robust sense of self-worth in your child.

The Long-Term Impact of Balanced Praise

When children are praised for their effort and attitude, they learn that their worth isn’t tied to being the best or winning. They become more resilient, more willing to try new things, and less afraid of failure. This balanced approach to praise lays the foundation for a more realistic, self-sustaining form of confidence that stands the test of time. By focusing on the journey rather than the result, you equip your child with a healthier, more balanced outlook on life and achievement.

5. “You’re Making Me Mad”

When parents say, “You’re making me mad,” they inadvertently shift the burden of their emotional state onto their children. This can be confusing and unfair to the child, who is then made to feel as though they have an outsized influence on the emotional well-being of their parent. Over time, this can foster an unhealthy dynamic where the child feels responsible for other people’s feelings, leading to undue emotional stress and even manipulative behavior.

A More Mindful Approach

Instead of saying that your child is making you mad, opt for a phrase that puts the onus of your emotional state back where it belongs—on you. Saying, “I do not like your behavior right now,” is a way to express disapproval of their actions without making them responsible for your emotional condition. This clarifies that while their behavior may have consequences, they are not the arbiters of your emotional well-being.

Parenting Tip

It is important to teach children from a young age that they are responsible for their own actions and feelings. This foundational lesson sets the stage for more mature emotional development, enabling children to grow into adults who can manage their emotions, make responsible choices, and have healthy relationships. Making them aware that they are not responsible for other people’s feelings helps them to differentiate between their actions and their impact on others, which is a vital skill for emotional intelligence.

The Long-Term Benefits

Teaching kids that they are responsible for their own actions and feelings has a lasting impact on their emotional and social development. They learn to be self-aware, better at managing their feelings, and more empathetic toward others. This lesson in emotional autonomy is a gift that can benefit them for a lifetime, helping them navigate the complexities of relationships, work, and personal growth.

Parenting is a continuous learning curve, and nobody gets it perfect. But being aware of how our words can shape our children’s mental resilience is a step in the right direction. Remember, it’s not just about what you shouldn’t say, but also about what you should say to raise emotionally robust and resilient children.

Written by
Clara Underwood

Clara is a lifestyle writer, outdoors enthusiast, and a mother of two. She writes about everything from weekend family outings in nature to fostering emotional intelligence in children. Clara believes that a balanced family life is the cornerstone of a healthy society.

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