Positive Reinforcement: 9 Things You Shouldn't Say to Your Child
Learn what phrases to banish from your vocabulary and how to talk so your kids will really listen
Variations: "Don't be sad." "Don't be a baby." "Now, now -- there's no reason to be afraid." But kids do get upset enough to cry, especially toddlers, who can't always articulate their feelings with words. They do get sad. They do get frightened. "It's natural to want to protect a child from such feelings," says Debbie Glasser, Ph.D., director of Family Support Services at the Mailman Segal Institute for Early Childhood Studies at Nova Southeastern University, in Fort Lauderdale. "But saying 'Don't be' doesn't make a child feel better, and it also can send the message that his emotions aren't valid -- that it's not okay to be sad or scared."
Rather than deny that your child feels a particular way -- when he obviously does -- acknowledge the emotion up front. "It must make you really sad when Jason says he doesn't want to be your friend anymore." "Yes, the waves sure can be scary when you're not used to them. But we'll just stand here together and let them tickle our feet. I promise I won't let go of your hand."
By naming the real feelings that your child has, you'll give him the words to express himself -- and you'll show him what it means to be empathetic. Ultimately, he'll cry less and describe his emotions instead.
Next: Why you shouldn't compare your kids