5 Words You Should Never Say to Your Kids (Or Should You?)

There are a lot of "dirty words" when it comes to parenting. But should you really remove them from your vocabulary?

crying toddler punished and wearing hat and striped shirt J Schatz

Not too long ago, a parent who didn't set firm rules, tell her children to behave themselves or punish them when they acted out was thought to be an irresponsible parent. Now, in contrast, some of the most popular and commonly used words in parenting are considered to be off limits for the up-to-date and discerning parent. When did these words become, well, dirty? Here are some examples:


"No" is now a no-no. A caretaker disciplining a child by using this word is—according to the new standard—being crude, insensitive, and even downright mean. Apparently, one is now supposed to use the technique of redirecting the child to another activity, as opposed to telling him to stop the inappropriate one.

Best practice: Use both. Telling the child "no" is a clear communication of what is inappropriate—which is imperative to the child's learning. Then, redirect him to another activity (unless he needs removing from the room). The message gets across much better when they're used together.

Related: The 10 Most Practical Pieces of Parenting Advice No One Tells You


Although these terms are not actually interchangeable, many folks tend to toss them into the same basket. Punishment has become an intolerable phenomenon that "good" parents never use. After all, we wouldn't want to hurt our kids' feelings, would we? Punishment implies that their behavior was wrong, and no good parent would label their child's behavior in that negative way. . .right?

Discipline covers ground rules about what's expected and what's not, plus the consequences needed when the child crosses the line.

Best practice: Discipline is necessary for children. Not providing rules and expectations (reasonable ones, of course) is not caring for your child. Children who don't know what's expected of them do not feel safe; nor do kids who don't experience follow through with consequences for misbehaving.


"Bad," when used in the context of, "You're being bad," is another forbidden word. Parents today aren't allowed to use words that imply negative judgment, since it's been drilled into them that this will damage their children and turn them into psychopathic criminals.

Best practice: As long as you're not labeling the child himself as bad (such as, "You're a bad boy"), labeling the behavior as bad is perfectly fine and won't damage anybody. If you prefer, "You're behaving badly," works just as well. Either way it will teach him that "bad" means "inappropriate", and that's good for his learning.

Related: Fun Ways to Nurture Baby's Language Development

Read the full story, Should You Nix These 'Dirty Words' From Your Parenting Vocab?, on YourTango.com!

By Dr. Shoshana Bennett, Ph.D.

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