As we all know kids are very impressionable and the words we use can be a lot more powerful than we think.

Here is a list of words that I personally believe should never be used with your children, to help them grow up to be confident, happy adults.

1) Fat

There is enough in the media and social networks that cause people to look down on themself and not feel good enough.

Children should not be exposed to things that can lower their self esteem.

This includes you using the word fat in regards to yourself. Sentences such as “Ugh, I’m feeling really fat today” or “Do these pants make me look fat?” can have quite an impact on children and can put an unnecessary focus on the outward appearance.

2) Can’t

Putting boundaries on children around their abilities is never a good idea. There is going to be enough in the big wide world that cause a child to question themselves.

This should not come from us. We should be the people that teach our children than anything is possible.

The word “can’t” creates limitations and is often used so frequently and usually not even in the right context. “Can’t” is actually a word that means unable, as in physically or mentally. Such as “you cannot fly.” However it is often used so often by parents in the setting of boundaries such as “you can’t play in the mud.”

This is actually incorrect as physically the child is quite capable of playing in the mud. If you are setting a boundary try using “You are not allowed” or “You may not”.

3) Bad

This word should not be used in relation to your child ever.

Telling a child they are bad can have a serious impact in their view of themself and will in fact have an influence on future behaviour.

If they are doing something you don’t like, try explaining to them that the behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated, not that they are bad.

In relation to food “bad” is also a word that should be avoided. Labelling foods as “bad” or “good” can also lead to eating disorders down the track as children should instead be taught moderation and what is healthy, rather that foods being “bad” which can cause guilt and other issues around eating.

4) Hate

I have never liked the word “hate”. Neither did my mother.

It is such a strong word and once in the vocabulary it is often lumped to so many things… foods, activities, weather even people. Allowing our children to use it can lead to other negative words and can increase feelings such as anger and discontent.

5) Smart or gifted

Although these both sound like great words they can have a bigger impact on your child than you think.

Any kind of labelling can bring about positive or negative results. Calling a child “Smart” or “gifted” has been shown to cause more harm than good. Why? Because once a child thinks they are “gifted” they link this to their self esteem and studies have shown that these children are less likely to put in a lot of effort to a task – why should they? They are already smart.

They also tend to take less risks, can become unteachable – they already know it all and they undermine the value of learning.

Overall, there is huge power in words and we as parents, grandparents, carers etc need to think carefully before letting them escape our lips, especially in the presence of our children.

Words need to uplift and encourage but not be unrealistic or “labelling” to our children.

What words do you find yourself using that you wish you didn’t? Which words from the list really made you think? Please share your thoughts below.

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  • I would ask my kids “Are you a bad kid?”….they would say “NO” …I would then say “Of course you are not….you are a good kid….so why did you do a bad thing?”…….what they did was bad….they were not bad.


  • I suppose using these words within context and while linked to actions is not necessarily a bad thing. Labelling anyone is wrong, particularly young impressionable minds.


  • I agree with most of these words. I think it’s hard to parent in the age of technology and micromanaging parents though to be honest.


  • While I agree with some of these words I can’t see what’s wrong with the word smart. There are so many restrictions on parents now it’s hard to know what to do.


  • Very interesting article- I always try to encourage my kids telling my daughter and son that they are beautiful and clever when they do something cool. I think I usually say ‘naughty’, not ‘bad’ which is more like the action. I will try the whole ‘can’t’ thing, I usually tell my daughter that there’s no such word as can’t and that she can do anything with practice, but I must say I do say you can’t do this or that if it’s something she’s not allowed to do.


  • I try very hard with all of the above. In fact, we pull our son up when he says can’t and explain it’s not a word we use, and to replace it with CAN. I also really dislike my son using the word hate and pick him up on it. We are conscious of the words we use and messages we send, and at the end of the day can only do our best to teach our son to be positive. He is a great kid who really does model our family’s behaviour of politeness, respect, value, etc.


  • Words have a lot of power indeed, positive or negative !

    • It’s good to be mindful about your words. We have a lot of talks about what we say, what we’ve said and what we maybe shouldn’t have said.


  • It’s funny I was discussing words & their effects yesterday with my 7 year old & she says ” I know hate is such a strong wprd but there are things I hate such as tailgaters!” I hadn’t even thought of hate…. out of the mouth of babes ????


  • I notice I still have not got my 50 birthday points for Steven for the 19th of February


  • I am totally fed up with the political correctness police and these so called experts telling us how to be effective parents!. When you have 4 beautiful kids they are all different. Some got better marks than others in different subjects.. I used to tell them as long as you do your best that is all that matters. I never said why cant you get better marks like so and so.


  • I think we’re all adult enough to know in what context to use certain words to our children. I’m sick of the correctness police. When did it become fashionable to analyse everything to the nth degree and treat parents like we’re all a bunch of idiots?


  • Words do have immense power and parents are influential role models and children need to know and be exposed to an enormous range of words and ideas. I fully understand the context of this article and parents being the best role models for the healthy use of these words.


  • I think you can give warnings of the problems to come without being overbearing. The words themselves are not wrong – it is the way you use [or abuse] them that is the problem.


  • I think the majority of the words listed above shouldn’t be used in relation to people in general. Although obviously they have a place in our language they are often used for the wrong reasons. I think everyone should think more about the meaning of words before using them.


  • I agree with the spirit of what is being said here for all the points. I also think that there is more to conveying the “right attitude” than just never using particular words.


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