Although parenting is not an exact science, most people agree that there are some phrases that you should not say to your children. What are these ‘taboo words’?

Negative labels: they range from slightly offensive ‘You are always forgetting things’ to downright insulting ‘You are so dumb’. First, these words really hurt. Second, they tend to stick and define the child’s future behavior: why should they try to change themselves if they are innately forgetful? Help them to get better by suggesting that they use reminders and try not to hurry rather than criticizing their personality.

‘There is nothing to worry about’ and similar phrases. By saying this you diminish your child’s feelings and emotions and make them seem stupid. Kids lack your experience and knowledge: your help is what they need to get them. Acknowledge their feelings ‘Visits to the dentist are always scary’ and let them know why this particular situation is not dangerous ‘but this doctor is very good at what she does and won’t hurt you’. The more you inform and explain the fewer reasons to be frightened your child will have.

‘Do this or else!’ This phase might have sounded great in old gangster movies, but it is totally out of place in communication with your toddler. First, small children usually learn through a process of trial and error and it seems that they enjoy making errors. Second, if you are not really going to carry out your threat, you should not make it at all. All too often spanking leads to more misbehavior and more spanking: once started, this vicious cycle is difficult to break. Have patience to explain your point to the kid; be kind and thoughtful rather than autocratic and domineering.

‘Leave me alone!” If you say this phase a lot, your child may think that you don’t like him or her, or that they shouldn’t try to engage you in their play because you are always too busy. Either take a five-minute break to play with your kid and then return to work, or promise them that you will join them in their play in a little while – and keep your promise.

It is never late to correct your mistakes. One last piece of advice: do not blame yourself for making errors: raising children is a demanding job, and nobody’s perfect.