Try These Helpful Parenting Phrases

Written by Janet Denison
Published on April 12, 2016

I’m remembering all the times I crawled in bed and thought, “I should have said something like . . .”

It can be difficult at times, to be wise in the moment. So, here are a few thoughts to think about ahead of time. Feel free to reword, rethink, and refashion any of these to suit yourself and your family. These were words I did use, or wished I had used, when I was raising my kids.

For preschoolers:

You can whine if you want to, but you have to wait and whine when you get home so you won’t be bothering other people. It isn’t kind to make other people feel sad or angry. They want to have a happy day.

You don’t have to go potty before we leave. I don’t have to take you to your friend’s house tomorrow. But won’t we be happy if we both do the right thing and be kind to each other?

You are beautiful/handsome on the outside and on the inside.

Thank you for that hug. Now I feel like the most special mom in the world.

I’m proud of you for not hitting back. You taught him/her how to be kind.

You don’t have to eat your dinner. I will try to remember to fix you a big breakfast. You are going to be VERY hungry in the morning.

I don’t think I can take you to the park. I’m afraid you will hit another child, like you hit your brother/sister. Ask me again tomorrow if you think I can trust you to behave.

Use your words.  I want to understand what is wrong.

I wish the people in the restaurant could have another chance to know you. They think you are naughty, but I wish they knew how kind and sweet you really are. Maybe we will see them again someday and they can get to know you better.


For school age kids:

You are one/fourth (?) of the family. That means that you are an important part of every decision made. But, you don’t matter most. The family matters most, and our decisions will be what is best for all of us or, if necessary, most of us.

I don’t love your brother/sister more than I love you. I have all the love for you that God has given me. God’s love never runs out, and so mine will never run out either.

They are your grades. Unfortunately, it is my job to make sure your grades are your best work. Can you tell me how I could do my job a little better?

I’m sorry, but I know you lied to me and I can’t trust what you are saying right now. Maybe in a few days I will believe what you say.

It isn’t your room. Dad and I are just letting you use it right now.

Actually, I am the boss of you. If I wasn’t, you would be someone else’s child.

I know you wish I treated you like your friend’s mom treats her. But do you really wish she was your mom instead of me? Please think for just a minute before you answer that.

I don’t want to treat you the same as I treat your brother/sister. You have your own name, your own life and your own personality. I want to treat you like you.

I’m not sure how I should discipline you yet. I need you to give me some time to think and pray, because I want to do the right thing.

You don’t have to do your chores right now. I don’t have to fix your dinner later on. But both of us will be happier if we do the right thing, at the right time.

It is normal to be angry with your brother/sister and I understand. Just go to your rooms and stay there until you feel ready to ask forgiveness for whatever you did wrong. Let me know when you are ready to say you are sorry. I’ll check to see if your brother/sister is ready to do the same.

Please don’t talk to your brother/sister that way. He/she will always love you and be the closest friend you could ever have.


For tweens and teens:

The cell phones will be lined up on my bathroom counter at 10 p.m. If you need to use it, please wake me up and we can talk about it. Otherwise, you can pick it up on the kitchen counter at 7 a.m. Breaking that rule will mean you lose the cell phone for one month. I know this rule seems unreasonable and you will hate it almost as much as I do. But I know the statistics and I am going to do my best to protect you.

Your laptop can only be used in a common area, not your bedroom. We will be checking your Internet history often and randomly. If you make a mistake and accidentally view porn, you will need to come tell one of us. If you don’t and we see it in your history, we will both suffer because your future computer use will be limited to a time when one of your parents can be present and watchful.

I’m sorry.  Parenting teenagers is really tough. I will do my best but I am going to make some mistakes. Please forgive me when I blow it and I promise I’ll try to get it right the next time.

Choose your arguments carefully and I’ll try to do the same. If I can say yes, I will. But I need you to understand that if I can’t trust you, I can’t say yes. The worst thing you can do for your life, and mine, is something that will take away my ability to trust you.

As Erma Bombeck said, “I understand you are furious with me. But I love you enough to let you hate me.”

Don’t say things to yourself that you would never consider saying to a close friend. You should treat yourself with kindness and respect too.

That comment was too close to the line/on the line/or crossed the line. Don’t worry about it this time, because you didn’t know. But please be more careful with your words in the future.  I will not discipline what you didn’t know, but I will always discipline what you did know and chose to ignore.


For college age: 

It is normal to doubt the existence of God and wonder if you believed just because your dad and I did. In fact, it is good news that you have come to this point.  You are about to understand God more personally, in the days ahead. Don’t worry about your doubts, God knows what you are thinking and He is big enough to handle it. I’ll be interested to hear about what He does in your life in the coming weeks. He will be revealing himself to you, because I’ll be praying for that.

Here is a copy of Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God. Just keep this on the shelf until God tells you to read it. A lot of adults, myself included, have come to know God in greater ways because of this workbook. My guess is, you will too.

You will love more than one person in your life. Be careful because love is not the only thing that matters. If that was the case, then there would be more than one person we were supposed to marry and spend our lives with. Some call that person a soul mate, but biblically, it is the person God calls you to marry. It is important to choose the person God has chosen for you.  All marriages endure highs, lows and lulls. During every moment, if you can know you are with the person God chose for you, you can know that God has equipped and prepared you for the journey. Find your great love, your great like, and your greatest marriage in the person that God chooses for you. He is the only perfect matchmaker.

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Janet Denison

Janet Denison teaches others to live an authentic faith through her writing, speaking, and teaching ministry. She blogs weekly at and often at

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