“Challenging” is not enough to describe what parenting a young child is like. Getting your preschooler to do as you say can be a battle of wits — and they often win! Exhaustion usually drives many Pinoy parents to say the following phrases. In your experience, you'll find it will do the trick. But there are common phrases that may do more harm than good. Here are a few that experts say we need to leave behind and what to replace them with instead.
1. “Don’t cry” We mean well when we say this phrase — we only want our child to feel better. But acknowledging that our child is upset, instead of dismissing or setting his feelings aside, will help him move on from them, said Janet Lansbury, parenting advisor and host of the popular podcast Respectful Parenting. “Feeling understood is a powerful thing,” she said. We want our children to know that all emotions, including sadness and anger, are okay. It’s how we deal and cope with these big and overwhelming feelings that matter.
What to say instead: “I know you’re mad because you want that toy, but…”
2. “Behave!” or “Stop!” When directions are too vague, your child may not follow them simply because she's too young to know what you really mean. Better directions will tell your child what behavior is expected of her and prevent misbehavior in the future. Stick to clear, specific directions when you want your child to do or stop doing something.
What to say instead: “Sit in your chair,” or “Hold my hand”
3. “Sige ka, iiwan kita dito.” It can be hard to make your child leave the playground when it’s time to go, but saying such things can be terrifying for your child and harm his trust and attachment to you. “A child's feeling of attachment to his parents and caregivers is one of the most important things in a child's development, especially in the early years,” explained Dr. L. Alan Sroufe, a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Minnesota's Institute of Child Development, to The Atlantic.
“Threatening your child with abandonment, even in seemingly lighthearted ways, can shake the foundation of security and well-being that you represent,” he said.
What to say instead: “It’s almost dinner time, so we’re leaving in 5 minutes.” Then, tell him when there’s only four, three, two, and one minute left.
4. “Say sorry” Parenting experts advise against forcing a child to say sorry. It teaches “all the wrong lessons,” says child psychologist Dr. Laura Markham. When a child is “forced to apologize before he or she is ready, it doesn't help repair the relationship at all,” she says. Instead of teaching your child a valuable lesson, the issue turns into a struggle of getting your child to apologize.
What to say instead: “How do you think your friend is feeling? How would you feel if you were him? What could you do to help?”
5. “Lagot ka pagdating ni Daddy” Discipline tactics are most effective when the consequences come immediately after. “By the time the other parent gets home, it's likely that your child will actually have forgotten what she did wrong,” said Paula Spencer, the co-author of The Happiest Toddler on the Block, in an article for Parenting. This phrase undermines your authority as well, sending the message that Dad’s the only one with the power to discipline, added Spencer.
What to do instead: Set rules and follow through with consequences immediately. (Find how-to discipline tips here.)
6. “’Pag behaved ka, bibili tayo ng toy later.” It can be tempting to bribe your child with treats whenever she does what you say, but it encourages bratty behavior and often backfires in the long run, said Heidi Murkoff, author of the What to Expect When You're Expecting series. Your child may not do as you say anymore unless there’s something in return.
What to say instead: Let your child know that good behavior is expected of her wherever and whenever, not just when there’s a prize involved.
7. Overheard by your child: “Mahiyain eh” or “Matigas ang ulo!” Said Spencer, “Young children believe what they hear without question, even when it's about themselves. So negative labels can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.” Labeling your child as “shy,” for example, may make it even more difficult for her to come out of her shell. Instead, focus on correcting or improving your child’s behavior and avoid labels such as “matigas ang ulo,” “mahiyain,” “spoiled,” or “tamad.”
What to say instead: “Yes, my daughter likes to play on her own first, but she comes around after a while.”