Things Parents Shouldn't Say or Do in Front of Children

Things Parents Shouldn't Say or Do in Front of Children

Last update: 16 January, 2018

Most children tend to imitate what their parents say and do. That is why we should pay close attention to our behavior and know what we should and shouldn’t say in front of children.

Information does not have to be transmitted directly to someone in order to affect them. Simply by being present, children are able to understand and pick up on much more than we think.

They will learn by watching everything we do, and this will influence the way they act in the future. Therefore, we must avoid certain behaviors and issues until they are able to better understand the context.

Why should we not discuss certain issues in front of children?

When they are very small, children interpret the world from a very unique perspective. They understand and absorb much more than we think, but they are also very literal.

Even if they understand a general concept, they do not appreciate the nuances, expressions, or metaphors that we use. For example, if we mention that the neighbor has crow’s feet, we shouldn’t be surprised if our child thinks her legs are like a bird’s.

Nor can they understand irony, sarcasm or double meanings. They don’t understand that we can say something in a moment of anger that we later regret. All these nuances that children cannot yet comprehend go to work in their imaginations.

Since they best understand nonverbal language, that is, our body language, they capture the emotion of the situation. Consequently, the details that they have not yet understood are replaced with an emotional charge.

Without being aware of it, we transmit a lot of information to children. This can be a confusing emotional burden for the little ones.

This can pose several problems. We are not referring only to possible embarrassment because our children divulge gossip, for example. More worrying are situations in which children may feel confused or divided without really understanding the causes.

what we should and shouldn't say in front of children

An illustrative example

Imagine this situation: you had a discussion with your own parents and are now venting to your partner. Your child is present and understands that you are angry with his grandparents, whom he loves very much.

How will he feel? According to his perception, anger appears when someone has done something wrong. Are grandparents bad, then? How should they be treated? What will happen? What can he do?

In the same way, this confusion can be created in very different situations. Without realizing it, we may be discussing topics that our children aren’t ready to understand or may misinterpret, like couples’ relationships, friendships, school or “adult problems,” and this can lead to confusing emotions.

We must be attentive to what we say in front of children, but without this preventing us from communicating with them.

Some issues that we should not talk about in front of children

Here we have a list of topics that we should try to avoid talking about in front of children.

  1. Speaking poorly of other people. This also includes gossip in general. Children, especially the youngest ones, are not able to understand these private comments, nor our role in them. As we have illustrated above, they may feel confused, divided and even guilty.
  2. “Adult” worries. Money, time, food… we should not let everything that concerns us go to our children. As they grow up, we can explain these situations, but always in a way they can understand.
  3. Speak in front of children as if they are not there. Labeling them and making comments about their physique or intellect, especially if they are negative, can generate complexes.
what we should and shouldn't say in front of children

We must also take into account the tone we use or the attitude we show. For example, shouting, even if it is not directed at children or if it serves to relieve us, will only block, frighten and confuse children.

We must also avoid lies, because our children will get used to avoiding the truth when it is convenient for them.

How do we control what we say?

We will not always be able to control ourselves. Therefore, the most important thing is that we clarify our situation to our children and alleviate their confusion.

Being attentive when speaking in front of children does not mean that we should cut off all communication in their presence. In fact, that would be very negative for them, since they would think they are bothering you or that you don’t want them near.

All we need is to reflect a little and put ourselves in their shoes.

A good method to calculate what we say is to act as if we are being recorded before we speak. Think carefully about your words, attitude and the image you project in front of them.

We must also think about whether what we say or convey may confuse them. That is, try to understand how it can affect them.

Finally, it is advisable to use clear and direct language in their presence. At an early age, children do not understand metaphors and word games.

If we avoid using these kinds of expressions, we can eliminate a lot of the confusing feelings that can arise in our children.

Since we cannot always control ourselves, the most important thing is that we try to make our children understand the context. That way, they will not interpret our anger as their fault or try to make our concerns their own.

Clearing up their confusion will be fundamental for their growth and will help strengthen your relationship.


This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.