15 Things Not to Say to Your Nanny Kids

Mother scolds daughterSometimes What Seems Neutral to You, May Be Hurtful to Children

You aren’t perfect. It’s normal to lose your temper or get frustrated with the things kids do occasionally. But as a professional nanny you want to watch what you say to make sure you provide the best, quality care you can for your nanny kids.

Many of the comments listed below may seem neutral to you when you say them, but will feel like an insult when you say it to children. You want to say kind and helpful things to children, rather than hurt their feelings or make them feel badly. Try to avoid saying the 15 comments listed below and replace them with the suggestions provided.

1. “I’m sure you’ll do fine.”

Of course you mean well when you say this. But, instead of blowing off the child’s anxiety, in How to Say It to Your Kids, Dr. Paul Coleman asks you to consider if have you taken the time to really understand the child’s concerns? If not, reassurances won’t help.

2. “I’m disappointed in you.”

In his article, “13 Common Sayings to Avoid,” professor of education and author Richard Curwin explains that it’s normal be disappointed in things kids do at times. A more helpful approach to saying you are disappointed in what they have done in the past, is to look to the future. The alternative might be, “What do you think you can do to make a more helpful decision the next time you are in a similar situation?”

3. “What did you say?”

Mr. Curwin points out that saying this is the challenge. “What did you say?” is just bait for escalation. It’s better to ignore that unheard comeback and move on. You don’t always need to have the last word.

4. “If I do that for you, I’ll have to do it for your sister.”

In the book, Discipline With Dignity, Al Mendler makes a strong case for the policy that fair is not equal. You can’t treat everyone the same and be fair. Each child needs what helps her, and every child is different. Further, no one wants to think of himself as one of a herd. It’s better to say, “I’m not sure if I can do that, but I’ll do my best to meet your needs in one way or another.”

5. “It’s against the rules.”

Rules are about behavior. Curwin writes, “Often there are many behaviors from which people can choose in order to solve a problem.” Some may be within the rules. Try saying this instead, “Let me see if there’s a way to meet your need within the rules.”

6. “Your brother/sister was better than you at that.”

Never compare siblings or anyone else in a positive or negative way about anything, urges Curwin. Comparisons can only lead to trouble regardless of which side of the coin the child is on.

7. “For the last time clean your room…eat your vegetables!”

Coleman says that by yelling you are training the child to take you seriously only when you yell.

8. “You will sit at the table until you eat all your food!”

Coleman warns against saying this or you may be in for a long night. The better approach is to make sure the child doesn’t eat dessert because they didn’t eat enough healthy food. He suggests setting up a time to play a vegetable taste test game instead of yelling. Kids actually object to eating vegetables not because they taste horrible but they want to get in a power struggle that they have gotten away with in the past.

9. “You’ll never amount to anything.”

Not only is this an insult, but it is usually wrong, writes Curwin.

10. “Who do you think you are?”

Curwin asks, do you really need to know who they think they are? This question is meant to say, “You are not as important as me!” This communicates sheer arrogance and is asking for a power struggle.

11. “If you hit again you will be punished!”

Coleman teaches that the first time a child hits should result in consequences. Telling him not to hit again does not teach him what he could do instead. Say instead, “I want you two to talk to each other about what’s bothering you without hitting.” You need to help the child to problem-solve.

12. “I see you spelled three words wrong on the test.”

Coleman recommends praising the overall grade and not focus on the critical details. Perfectionists tend to be worriers and look at the negative possibilities and turn them into likely probabilities. Help perfectionist children to not be too hard on themselves.

13. “I’m busy now.”

Don’t dismiss children this abruptly if they need you in some way, urges Curwin. Instead, show that you care by saying, “I’m cooking right now, but you are very important to me. I really want to hear what’s on your mind once I put the hot food down.”

14. “Don’t you ever stop talking?”

This is a snide way of asking the child to stop talking says Curwin. Never start with a question like, “Don’t you ever _______?” You can fill in any behavior or attitude: “listen,” “do your homework,” “try,” “care about your work.” Avoid the sarcasm and directly say what you are feeling.

15. “What is wrong with you?”

This question implies a defect or an imperfect child. Curwin points out that we are all imperfect, so the question is really only intended as an insult. What do you expect the child to answer? A better approach is to say something like, “I see you have a problem. Let’s work together to find a solution.”

Curwin points out that saying one of these things once or twice during the year, is understandable. But you can also hold yourself to a higher standard and avoid saying things that you know in advance are hurtful.


1. How to Say It to Your Kids by Dr. Paul Coleman

2. “13 Common Sayings to Avoid” by Richard Curwin

3. Discipline With Dignity by Al Mendler

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