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10 Things You Should NEVER Say to a Toddler

By Lori Garcia |

None of us know what we’re doing as parents, or at least that’s what I like to tell myself. Besides, anyone who claims to know better than the rest of us better have children who sleep past 9 am, wipe their own butts (and well), and actually enjoy being seen rather than heard.

Babble editor, Mira Jacob wrote the piece, 15 Ways NOT to Raise Your Toddler because she’s a mom who’s keepin’ it real; real honest and real hilarious.

Just like our toddlers, we don’t always want to be told what to say or do so I offer the following list of things you should NEVER say to a toddler …

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Things parents should never say to toddlers

Stainless Steel Sippy Cup

Stainless steel sippy cups are your best bet for avoiding the chemicals, like BPA, that are found in many plastic sippy cups and can leach into your child’s drinks. We love our Klean Kanteen sippy cups, and there are several other good brands out there too.

[Images via Shutterstock]

Did I leave anything out? Hit me up with a comment below.


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About Lori Garcia


Lori Garcia

Lori Garcia is a writer and mother of two living and loving in Southern California. When she's not fussing with her bangs, you can find her shaking her groove thing on her personal blog, Mommyfriend where she almost never combines true tales of motherhood and mayhem with her degree in child development. Read bio and latest posts → Read Lori's latest posts →

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35 thoughts on “10 Things You Should NEVER Say to a Toddler

  1. Kadie says:

    If you are waiting for someone to come over and you don’t know the exact moment that they will be there, don’t tell your child they are coming. Haha. I make this mistake ALL THE TIME.

  2. ELishiva! says:

    Don’t tell these things to pre-teens either. Same response just meaner and louder

  3. Dani says:

    Honestly, your toddler does not forget things promised to them. I always told my son what to expect though, but usually no further in advance of a day. I don’t believe in bribing a child to alleviate “stress” associated with things they don’t like but need, i.e., injections, bathing, nail clipping, etc… I think to do so just enforces the children’s/teens general belief that everything I do/toletare should come with a prise for me, just because I did/endures something. Children should be taught to strive to achieve/obtain things with hard work and perserverance!

    I also think there is noe reason not to expect your child to behave in an appropriate manner whenever in a public situation, if they don’t start learning manners or etiquette early on they NEVER will. Playing, screaming and having fun can be accomplished in appropriate areas and at approriate times, even daycares enforce manners!

  4. Yvonne says:

    Hello! My twins will be 13 in three weeks and these STILL all apply. Get used to it!

  5. Leo says:

    Man, this is REALLY good stuff. I’ve been a stay-at-home dad for several years now and man, this is SO on target. My little guy caught me saying “STUPID” in a fit of road-rage. Ten seconds later a cute little…”STU-pid” came from the back seat of my car. If it weren’t for the fact that I felt so STUPID for allowing myself to get into such a traffic lather I would have cracked up (the word sounded so cute and innocent coming from his mouth..not so from my own). Thank God, he was no longer entertained by the word after getting out about 10 of em’ before we arrived home.

  6. Sloppy_Tuna says:

    This was a cute article without a doubt, but I had no problem telling my toddlers it was time to clean out toys. We taught them that it made room for NEW toys and that we couldn’t get any new toys unless we made room for old ones. We then told them they were going to share these toys with kids who didn’t have ANY toys. All three of my toddlers loved the idea of making room for new toys and sharing with kids who were less fortunate :)

    We also told them that Maybe means I’m not saying yes and I’m not saying no I’m saying I don’t know…let me think about it.

  7. julie says:

    lol as a parent of 6 ages 21 to 6 and a new grandmother i think u got the tiger by the tail so to say….there is one tho when ur toddler announces i have to peee for crying out loud please take him/her i do not enjoy watching children doing the pee pee dance or holding themselves as they walk through walmart announcing that they have to peeee!

  8. Tish says:

    We have also taught our daughters about cleaning out toys. About every 6 months we go through their toys to make room for new toys (ie- birthday or Christmas) and we take the toys in good shape & place them in a tub to be given to less fortunate kids. Both my girls love the idea of sharing and being a friend to a child they don’t know. They also understand that we can’t just get and get if there isn’t a little give.

    We are pretty straight forward with our girls. They understand the word maybe & I will think about it. As well as understanding that a minute means to be patient and wait. I agree with not cussing or acting in a manner you wouldnt want your children to act. As for what i cannot stand hearing a parent say to their child….shut up. It is mean disrespectful, & just uncalled for. As well as cussing at your child…they don’t understand why you added those words or what they are supposed to mean, so why waste time using them.

  9. Yorko says:

    Remember children at any age are Parrots. They repeat all the bad things you say, and tell people all the bad things you do. When they are asked “were did you learn that from” you can bet,” Mommy or Daddy” will come out of their mouth next.

  10. Bob says:

    If we can’t say those things. Then what should we say for these situations?

  11. toya says:

    also i have learned never tell your toddler we get it on “Friday”. it will surprise how quickly they will learn the days of the week. Also, after year of “i’ll get it on payday”, my kid just let me know that she knows when i get paid.

  12. f. davenport says:

    Be very, very, VERY careful of what you do to your toddler—even the “titty tweaks” that Daddy, “Uncle Harry”, etc. etc. do, can come back to haunt everybody Uh, like when there’s a power failure/computer glitch in the grocery line your standing in…everybody in line gets bored, including little old grandmas who just love to interact w/toddlers [Need I say more?!?!)

  13. kathryn says:

    This is so true! i am taking my daughter to disneyworld in december-and my mother made the mistake of telling her. Now every single day my daughter is asking “are we going to see mickey today”??

  14. Joe says:

    This list is very basic, is entertainment, and has some definite outpoints.

    For example, maybe can be used correctly, but you have to use it as it is meant to be used, and force yourself to come through with a yes at least half the time you use it. And you have to enforce that any and all whining will always change the maybe to a no, a yes to a no, or anything else you can think of to a no. Every child is different (I have more than 1, they are all different), but ultimately a vast majority will learn not to whine much if you enforce these 2 things every time. Most parents who say “my child is different, it doesn’t work” gives in to whining too much or uses maybe as a no too much. And as a parent who gave in too much to my youngest daughter, it is a real pain to undo it once you have done it, but it can be done.

    As for the rest, some is spot on like watch what you say, while others like “it’s good for you” has always worked for my kids, but we explained specifically what it is good for. My kids love green peppers because it helps you toot. They love carrots because it is good for their eyes. They love apples because it helps them not get a runny nose.

    I guess the best advice is give them the attention they need so they don’t act out to get attention, teach them why some things are the way they are so explanations will work, and don’t lie to them about stuff to get them to shut up. But that first thing, attention, that takes a lot of time, I just don’t see a lot of parents putting that much time into it. If you can’t put the time into it, don’t have kids.

  15. Heather says:

    I have to disagree. My 3 year old had to have minor surgery to remove an enlarged skin-tab from her face. We explained everything that was going to happen way in advance, while we were waiting, and while it was happening. She was so grown-up about it, even to the point of telling the nurses what was going to happen. Discussing it in advance gave her time to process it and ask questions about it.

  16. KMT says:

    We learned early on (our 1st child was about 18 mos.) not to use any words we did not want her to say when we noticed her saying “oh sit” when frustrated (she couldn’t yet pronounce “sh”).
    But then she went to first grade on the bus with 6th graders, and came home asking “Mommy, what does “f*ck” mean?”

  17. karen says:

    I have raised several children myself and am raising a 18 month old granddaughter. I disagree with some of your “don’t say”. I have always and still do believe that children are smarter than what adults give them credit for being. I told my kids/granddaughter, whenever I needed to “wash their hair”, what was good for them among other things. They have the right to know, it also gave them a chance to learn to do things for themselves. When I “cleaned out” their toys, they got to help because they knew they got to share them with less fortunate kids. They learned about giving to others that way. I believe kids should be involved in shopping from an early age. They learn the value of money and how to make it stretch.

  18. Rachel says:

    The only disagreement I have is the implication that you shouldn’t tell kids things they won’t like but need to happen (i.e. Doctor’s visits or cleaning out toys) just because you’re afraid of the reaction. Sometimes things happen we don’t like, sometimes we have to do these things, and at some point we just have to learn to suck it up. Besides, making them follow your rules shouldn’t only count when they like it. If I tell them to get in the car, they don’t have the option to refuse because we’re going to the doctor instead of the ice cream shop. Whatever would happen when they get homework?

    Even fake crying – you know, when they’re mad and cry to manipulate you – can be dealt with. Months ago, I had this disagreement with my friend, whose toddler will be 3 in February, about how to deal with a tantrum. I told her she should treat tantrum-crying like any other bad behavior and discipline her for it. She thought that was too severe. One day the child threw a tantrum in front of both of us, and I got to her eye level and commanded with no uncertainty to, “Stop crying,” and she did. A little sniffle and a dirty look, but five seconds later she was off doing something else. Now even her mom tells her to stop crying when she’s just throwing a tantrum, and it’s much more peaceful in the house.

  19. Nathan says:

    It sounds like you are scared of your children and how they will act when you tell them anything they don’t want to hear. I have to totally disagree with not telling them to be quiet. My son just turned 2 and when i tell him to be quiet…he knows exactly what that means…no, he didn’t the first time I said it, but he does now. I know nobody’s a “perfect parent” but when you say your kids are out of control and expect everything they ask for…it’s because they were trained that way and they have always dictated your actions instead of you dictating theirs.

  20. Brandy says:

    I think this is fun to read, but seriously faulty. Children learn through our direction. Obviously we DO need to be honest and watch what we say. We also need to be willing to say NO. Howeverr, children learn how to handle anticipation by looking forward or even dreading something (in a minute, maybe, next summer, next week.). To avoid talking to them ahead of time might make it easier on you, but it deprives them of developmental learning. If you wait to tell them the day of, they learn “all things happen NOW” instead of “some things take time and preparation.” calendars are great for counting down to far away things. They will eventually eithe forget for awhile or learn to keep tabs on the calendar. Paper chains for happy things coming and everyday reassurances help kids deal with fear. Also, by not teaching them that there are times to be loud and times to be quiet, you are saying they don’t need to learn self control. Every child learns this in degrees and the earlier they start trying the better. I think it is better to say “don’t get angry when they don’t respond, but keep trying to help them understand quiet. Different, but along the same lines, each of my kids went through a phase of taking off their clothes and running bare-bottomed through the house. We curtailed this by declaring a “nakey-time” where in the privacy of their room or our home, they could experience the “freedom” for a feww minites after a bath or before bedtime. If they started to tug at clothes in the wrong places, we could say “it’s not nakey-time and this isn’t the right place. They always caught on and complied quickly. Finally, I am going to guess that you don’t mean for parents to NOT insist on eating things “because they are good for you” but rather that it is a waste of time to utter the words. This is not true. Babies certainly won’t get it, but toddlers do. Again, give them some credit, they are smart intelligent beings and will eventually understand. Giving them a reason for eating the right things is better than expecting them to eat it just because you said so. After-all, later in life we will want them to have a reason for choosing what they eat or do or say. It is important to help them understand that there is a good consequence for making good decisions and likewise a lesser or even bad consequence for choosing otherwise. Kids need rules and they need to start learning early.

  21. Krista G. says:

    I got into the habit of saying “We’ll see” instead of maybe. It broke my heart and made me laugh when my 2 year old asked if we could go see “Grammy”. I said “we’ll see” and a sad little voice from the back seat said “sigh..probly not”. I’m also guilty of “In a minute” my little guy has now started adding that phrase to his request when he sees I’m busy. This morning I got “Mommy, I get a minute.”

  22. Dylan's Mom says:

    I love this she is so str8 up i’m a mom of one cute little boy and he is a hand full
    thanks for the tips you made my day

  23. Marcia says:

    I’m with you on 9 of 10…have many a story to illustrate each one! But in my experience it is better to to do little prep when an upcoming “trigger” event is upon us. We tell our 4 yr old a few hours before for example, at lunchtime for a babysitter that night, or At breakfast when she has a doctors appt that afternoon. Anymore than a few hrs before and your doomed to incessant questions and increasing anxiety over an extended period. Self inflicted torture to be sure! But a bit of prep and we get to be very clear that the whine won’t work and also, we are not handing over an unhappily surprised child to an unsuspecting sitter! I am happy to report it’s working and that the adjustment period is considerably shorter. Love the list! Thanks.

  24. Susan Paradis says:

    don’t kid yourself, toddlers aren’t the only ones who “air dirty laundry”!! a middle-schooler will rat you out TWICE as fast & be happy to do it!!

  25. abnormal2004 says:

    And isn’t it fascinating how they can hear a word like “f***” or “s***” or what have you ONE TIME and it gets downloaded straight to their little hard drive, but it takes MONTHS sometimes to get them to say other, more important (and appropriate) words? lol.

  26. Grace says:

    The one word I hear parents using that I don’t believe should be used is the word OK at the end of a sentence when the child has no choice.
    As in It’s time to take a bath, OK? Time to clean up toys, OK?
    In these instances it changes the dialogue, instead of we’re taking a bath, cleaning up toys, etc. it makes it a question, a question that can have a yes or no answer and most kids are going to answer with NO.
    So don’t add the OK on to the end of an activity when there is no choice. It also makes a parent sound wishy washy and gives the child more power.

  27. Greg says:

    I want to ask a question. Did you and I have kid(s) together? Are YOU the parent of my kids? Do you KNOW with 100% certainty what works with my kids? I’m guessing you said “NO” to those questions, so I say this: stop giving “advice” to others and how they should raise their children. Every child is different and needs different ways, methods, and disciplines. It’s so sad how children are growing up these days because some “experts”, like you probably claim to be, tell others what to do. For instance, I also read somewhere that parents shouldn’t spank their children for fear of what the kids may become later in life, and the kids shouldn’t “suffer” such “trauma” at young ages. BULL! Spanking a child with reasonable amount of disciplining – notice I said REASONABLE- helps the child learn right from wrong, among other forms of reasonable discipline. Because people like you, Mira, insist we don’t do such things. It doesn’t HURT the children to learn the “not-so-pleasant” ways at young ages, or even things won’t go their way all the time, because lets face it, the world isn’t the Garden of Eden. And reasonable discipline in public places is still discipline, NOT abuse. The true abuse of a child is letting them grow up without a sense of moral right and wrong.

    No wonder why the children today can be so terrible. Because too many parents listen to people like you, and don’t find out for themselves what really should be done for their kids. I’m sure you weren’t a perfect child, and I’m guessing you yourself could have used a swat on the butt a few times when too misbehaved. I could go on and on, but the point is simply: who are you, Mira, to tell OTHERS how they should deal with their kids?

  28. Chuck Emmons says:

    True to our modern times, our two boys readily accepted any reasonable delay when we told them something had to “rest its batteries”.

  29. Renee says:

    I love this article! It is sooo funny. I do agree with many of the “don’t says”, but everyone must above all else remember, your child is your child and there is ALWAYS an exception to every rule.

  30. Mary says:

    I put tonka trucks on layaway years ago, two months before Christmas, when my 3 yr. old was with me. I thought he would not remember but every time thereafter, when we went to walmart, he would ask me, “We gonna pick up my trucks today?”

  31. Kevin M. says:

    Get a grip. We all love our kids but please try and remember, as a parent YOU are in charge. I tell my 3 y/o daughter to be quiet and she knows I mean it. I don’t b/s my kid, the truth[ as much as they can understand] is what she gets and has come to recognize that my wife and I mean what we say. Being responsible for what is said and done is a powerful lesson in our home and one that I try to impart to my child.

  32. Jenn says:

    My 4 year old is the oppsite w/ doctors everyday its “can i go see my (enter random “illness she has) doctor, if she sneezes its her nose doctor, if she swollows her water wrong, its her throat doctor, she absolutly LOVES the doc so i got lucky there.
    I do agree though they remember EVERYTHING last year my kids were 3 and 1 for xmas and we had to do “santa shopping” with them little things here and there not all at once even, lucky “mommy wrapped presents for family and mailed them out” and she got shirts like “we bought aunty” among toys we “bought” for her cuz, this year we decided online shopping and only one parent shopping would be best since shes older and that much wiser.
    My oldest hasnt either a. hit the repeat phase or b. kind of bypassed through it and my youngest isnt old enough to fully talk lol, my oldest is funny in the fact theres words she KNOWS shes not allowed to say and if shes not sure and hears them … like when i stub my toe and scream HOLY *%&$&# &$&# THAT HURT LIKE A $(#&%” she will actually yell at me telling me “mommy those are bad words” now we do have problems with her singing to some songs like rhiannas S&M song.. among other songs she prob shouldnt be listening to on the radio (which thank goodness that we have a cd player int he car again) but usually if shes not sure like she heard the word “sex” on tv for the 1st time yesterday and i was expecting a repeat or a “whats that mean” a convo im not ready to have with a 4 year old lol, ad i just got “mommy is that a grown up word?? i replied “yes only mommys and daddys say that” and she said the cutiest thing she goes “i thought so, you and daddy looked at eachother like i’m not suppose to say that” then we laughed and changed teh channel lol

  33. Wilma says:

    We had five children, my husband was in the Air Force. Mine were all brought up with what you might call Military Dicipline. They were told the truth, and they knew when they were told to do something, they better do it. It didn’t hurt any of them, they grew up respecting others, and I didn’t have to be afraid to take them anywhere, because I knew they would behave because they were brought up to respect other people. They all got a swat on the behind a few times, but they learned to respect that too.We never beat around the bush about anything with them, they all grew up to be very fine adults. But unfortunately, now, if you swat one you better be sure CPS isn’t around the corner, because they will come after you for Child Abuse. That’s what’s wrong with kids today.

  34. Becky E. says:

    Cleaning out toys: When we go through our boys’ toys, we tell them to pick out toys for Charity, toys they don’t play with much anymore. We also tell them we only give fixed things and complete games, because we wouldn’t like to get a broken toy. They’ve seen us giving clothes and household items to charity often enough, so it’s just something they’re used to. My 4-year-old was ecstatic to give toys and books to Charity (“she likes toys!”), and then he had room for more toys….!

    As for things hurting: I never tell my kids that shots or dentist visits won’t hurt, because I’m not going to lie to my kids. (In case you’re wondering, Santa Claus is not lying, in the same way that throwing a surprise party isn’t lying.) They get stickers or suckers at the doctor’s office, and that’s quite all right. If they endure something painful at the dentist, they get ice cream – just what my parents did after I had tooth extractions (my mouth looked like a tumbledown graveyard when I was in elementary school). They also get ice cream if they’ve had to go to the ER and did well there. This way we give them positive memories to counter the negative experience in their memory. (Case in point: I had some oral surgery when I was 11, and my mom took me shopping for new clothes and toys afterwards, and ice cream later. I barely remember the painful surgery, but I do remember having a great time with my mom.)

  35. karen says:

    my 29 yo daughter still reminds me of the time I told her “it wasn’t a real needle” in the doctors office. Cute Article.

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