This story originally appeared on EverydayHealth.com
Things parents say around their children can have a big impact -- and not necessarily a positive one. What you consider to be fairly innocent phrases may actually be harmful to your kids' health, both physical and emotional.
Part of parenting and raising healthy kids involves understanding how they take subtle cues from mom and dad -- and how they interpret the language that you use. Laurie Zelinger, PhD, a child psychologist and play therapist, and her husband, psychologist Fred Zelinger, PhD, both in practice in Cedarhurst, N.Y., offer 10 types of statements that parents should never make around their kids.
1. "School is boring." Parents should resist criticizing their kids' school, including the faculty, in front of children. "The teacher and parent should really be a team in molding a child's education," says Fred. "The child needs to thrive in that environment and trust their teacher. Parental attitudes toward school could influence the child's behavior in the classroom and at school."
2. "Great job -- not." Sarcasm breeds cruelty, and parents shouldn't use it around their children, even when talking to other adults. And sarcasm's effect on kids' health when aimed directly at them can be quite damaging. Kids will be hurt by a stream of put-downs disguised as humor. And if they're too young to understand that you're being sarcastic, they may interpret "wonderful job" to mean just that, and not a mean-spirited jibe at their failure to clean up their room.
3. "What the (bleep)!" What parent doesn't want to sink through the floor after their toddler drops a four-letter word in front of company? Want to avoid this in your family? Good parenting means using the kind of language you won't mind your children repeating. "Children mirror what they see and hear in the home," says Laurie. "If you do not want your children using this type of language outside the house, then you shouldn't use the language inside the house, even if speaking with other adults."
4. "You're burning up with fever." Be careful when verbalizing concerns about your kids' health (or anyone's health) in front of them. "Children tend to get very upset when they hear that they are ill or someone around them is ill," says Laurie. "Parents should conduct in-depth discussions among themselves, and then approach the child with an explanation appropriate for their developmental level of understanding."
5. "Shut up!" Parenting can be tough, but having regular meltdowns, verbally abusing your partner and children, and flashing your temper are not the kind of kids' lessons you want to teach. "Children learn more by watching us than when we lecture them," explains Fred. "So it is important to model our behaviors and set an example of what we want our children to learn."
6. "Dying is like going to sleep." Certain topics are hard to broach with kids, especially when you're trying to not frighten them. But rather than providing an explanation of death, telling kids that dying is like going to sleep could end up making them afraid to go bed at night. Because children go through different development stages, and what alarms them at one point may not alarm them at another point, talk to your pediatrician for ideas on what is age-appropriate to say when a loved one dies.
7. "I'm so fat." No matter how you feel about your own body, avoid obsessing about your weight or dieting around kids. Kids often view such concerns as a standard for their own behavior. "The mother saying, 'I'm fat, and I don't like the way I look' might be seen by her child as, 'I better not get fat and I have to look pretty, otherwise mommy isn't going to like me,'" Laurie explains.
8."That does it -- you're grounded for a month." Teaching kids lessons should not involve threats that you have no intention of carrying out. "Very few parents follow through on ideas like sending a child to military school or grounding them for unbearable lengths of time," says Fred. "These types of empty threats, while possibly frightening, often demonstrate to the child that a parent's word is not necessarily truthful."
9. "We'll see ..." According to Laurie, that old parenting standby is often seen by children as a "no." If you use the phrase, she says, make certain that you follow up so that the child will trust your words. If you really mean no, don't be afraid to say it calmly. If you need to think about it, it's okay to delay and carefully consider the request, but make sure you do get back to your child.
10. "Don't be afraid." To parent healthy kids, allaying their fears needs to be more specific than that pat phrase. "It is better to figure out what is frightening them and address that issue," says Laurie. "Merely telling them not to be afraid doesn't help the situation."
Although it's not always possible to filter every word you say, being aware of these particular red flags will help you raise healthy, well-adjusted kids and perhaps even sidestep some of the more challenging issues that many parents face.
Republished with permission from EverydayHealth.com