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August 25, 2023
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September 8, 2023

Two Words To Try and Never Say To Your Kids


You’ve no doubt had the moment, whether intentional or not, the words leave your mouth, and you wish you’d never said them. But you can’t take them back now. Yes, we’re all human and we speak or misspeak things we might later regret. And thankfully we can ask forgiveness and make amends.
The two words start out as “You’re too…” and then most words after are not worth saying. Your words have a way of sticking to the heart of your kid long after you’ve spoken. So try and avoid saying these words.

 Here’s how this sentence might sound if it were completed:

  • You’re too fat
  • You’re too skinny
  • You’re too quiet
  • You’re too loud
  • You’re too much
  • You’re too immature
  • You’re too self-absorbed
  • You’re too complicated
  • You’re too unpredictable
  • You’re too needy

Now, I write and counsel dads and daughters. So these words and phrases lean toward things that would bother your daughters. But, I don’t think it’s crazy to think your sons can be hurt with these words as well.

I included the last phrase because I heard it from a dad in a counseling session. I was in the session with Mom, Dad, and their 19-year old daughter. We were talking about her recent stint in a 45-day residential eating disorder treatment center for anorexia nervosa.

At one point Dad said–with his daughter listening–“she’s always been the most needy of our three kids.” My heart was breaking for her and I thought: If this is how Dad is talking about his daughter to me with her listening, what kinds of things is he saying to her in their home?

I also wondered if his negative view of her was internalized such that she was now seeking to be invisible and unseen while fading away (which is a hallmark of anorexia). I saw her trying not to have any needs, which included not being in the way, and not being alive.

In time she did heal, thankfully. Yet, her dad harmed her more than helped through much of her process, unfortunately. I don’t want to see another dad make this same mistake. The reality is that your child might be “too this” or “too that” based on your personality or preferences. But, your kid is wired for a purpose by the Creator. It is your job to help steer, support, steward, and strengthen your kid’s gifts.

And Dad, if you do need to address negative behaviors, find a way to say it in a positive way. For example, instead of remarking, “you’re too selfish,” try saying, “I’ve seen you give of yourself through the years (give one or two examples) and that is when you’re being your authentic self. Lately, I’ve noticed that you’re more focused on yourself and your needs rather than on others. Can we talk about what’s going on inside? I imagine there’s more going on under the surface.”

Dad, always remember that your child will internalize your view. Make it your goal to:

  1. Renew your commitment to never speak words that crush the core of who your child is. 
  2. Look for opportunities to speak life into the very areas where you perhaps feel overwhelmed or get triggered by your child.
  3. Counter reactivity by leaning in and proactively affirming your child’s positive qualities.
  4. Find ways to build your child up and celebrate your kid’s uniqueness.

And these, my friend, are the four absolute best things you could ever say or do to your kid. Go Dad!


Portions of this post originally appeared at Dr. Michelle Watson-Canfield’s Blog.