8 Phrases You Should Never Say to Teenagers

Meaningful conversations with teenagers can be difficult. But as parents, we may be partly to blame for that.

Jessie Funk shares common phrases you should cut from your communication with teens.

Find more advice from Jessie at www.ivyranch.org.

Click here for a print out of these eight phrases.



Phrases You Should Stop Saying to Teenagers

Some common things all moms say might actually be hurting our teens more than helping them. Below are eight phrases you should never say to your teenager.

“I taught you better than that”

This phrase carries a lot of shame. It’s almost like saying “you live to please me.” This leads to the child thinking that in order to please mom, they have to do exactly what you want or what you taught. It could even lead to kids learning to lie as a defense mechanism.

What to say instead: “I don’t really like the choice you made, but I’d like to understand. Tell me about it.”

“Practice Makes Perfect”

Remove the word ‘perfect’ from your vocabulary in every realm of your life! It’s not attainable. If our kids think that it’s possible to be perfect, they will set themselves up for failure. The book “Mindset” by Carol Dweck talks about the fix mindset vs. the growth mindset. Fix mindset is all or nothing. Perfect or not perfect. Growth mindset is saying, “I’m not perfect, but I’m working on it and that’s ok.”

What to say instead: “Practice makes progress.”

“Do I look fat?”

It’s just inappropriate. We are the parents, the leaders of the household. We aren’t our kids’ buddies. We can be friendly, but we need to be the parents. This also makes you look kind of insecure, which then might make your child not respect you as much.

What to say instead: “I’ve been eating healthy and working out, do you think I look healthy? Because I feel healthy.”

“You’re breaking my heart”

This gives the child the idea that they are controlling you. Like their actions are triggering your emotions. Which then, in reverse, if your teen is mad at you, it’s your fault because you are making them mad. This is a negative idea for a kid to even entertain.

What to say instead: “Your choice did make me sad. I want to understand it, though. Help me understand.”

“You’re so awesome”

Still tell your child how great they are, but balance it. If you say this too much, your child will start internalizing it as, “I’m always going to be awesome, my mom will always love me, so I can do whatever I want.” This phrase can breed entitlement.

What to say instead: Mention things that can be developed. “I love it when you work so hard.” “You’re so tenacious.”

“Because I said so”

It’s a cop-out. A lazy form of parenting. You just don’t want to deal with the situation, so you just say “I’m the mom, that’s the reason.” It almost sends the message that you don’t want to be a mom at the moment, and that you don’t care.

What to say instead: Give them background as to why you’ve made your decision. Even if they still think it’s annoying, at least they know why.

“I can take care of that for you”

Say your child is doing the dishes, but putting the forks in upside down. Instead of letting them finish, you just take over for them. It’s like saying, “I don’t trust you, I can do it better.” Don’t save them, ask if you can do it together or if you can help.

What to say instead: Teach them. In this situation, you could say, “Hey, I usually put the forks in down so dirty hands don’t touch the part we use to eat. That’s something that I do.”

“You’re overreacting”

You’re dismissing their reality. Even if it’s not a big deal to you, it’s their reality and what they’re experiencing. Just be empathetic. Sometimes they just want someone to listen.

What to say instead: “I’m so sorry. Why don’t you tell me about it.”