When my son was almost due to arrive, I leaned over, put my hand on my wife’s belly and whispered to him, “Don’t worry, the circumcision won’t hurt a bit.” Sure enough, he wasn’t fooled in the least and refused to come out. My wife had to have a c-section and the rest is history. So in honor of my reluctant son, here are ten things you should never say to your kid:

  1. “We have to go now.” Children are very good at cost benefit analysis and almost any child can quickly figure out that there is nothing in that phrase for him. You have to dangle a carrot. I heard one seriously slick mom who was trying to get her son out of the playground ask him, “what do bears eat?” He said strawberries. She then offered to go buy him some for dinner. They were gone before I could say nice to meet you.
  2. Any phrase with iPad or iPhone in it. Even if you were saying to your wife how your parents still don’t know how to use this new magical wonder, just hearing it mentioned is sure to inspire a fit from your toddler until he can use his favorite app. If your child was verbal enough to play a word association game and you said iPad, your child would say bliss.
  3. “Dinner time, we have to wash your hands.” Don’t invite protest by offering too much information. Either lead him to the sink or wash his hands once you have him in the highchair.
  4. “Stop.” Alright, you need to say it sometimes – just don’t expect your child to listen. Wouldn’t we love it if our kids stopped whatever they were doing when we said so. Unfortunately, non-verbal methods are better. Just grab the bat before your kid smashes the vase or his little sister. This my not lead to fewer tears, but certainly less breakage.
  5. Yes or No questions. Depending on the age of your kid, she might say yes or no to almost everything. My kid is two and he pretty much says yes to all questions these days, unless of course I ask him if he needs to go potty, then I get a quick and definitive “no.”
  6. “If you finish your peas, you can have ice cream for dessert.” You don’t need to have taken a negotiation class at Harvard to know that you can’t bargain with children. Once ice cream has entered the conversation you have lost. If your child doesn’t want to eat her veggies try adding ketchup to them, but otherwise the battle is over. Don’t compound the problem by promising sweets.
  7. It’s bed time.”  Another meaningless phrase for a toddler for whom time doesn’t have much meaning. Better to say, “let’s go read about how Ladybug Girl bosses around Bumblebee Boy.” Not only will you be making your kid a better reader, but you will be preparing him for marriage.
  8. “Tomorrow, we will…” Only orphan Annie loves tomorrow. Everything is here and now for a toddler. If you can go to the playground tomorrow, why not right now? Best not to bring up tomorrow, unless of course you want a headache today.
  9. “Do you want to bring Elmo with you?” Never leave the house with the red devil. If your kid takes Elmo or his partner-in-crime Big Bird with him to a children’s center, all of the kids will want a piece and your day will be ruined by all of the crying that ensues as they wrestle for control of the stuffed deities.
  10. “That’s Daddy’s special copy of Sports Illustrated. Please give it back.” Your kid dug out the SI Swimsuit issue. Clearly you aren’t too good at hiding things. Better destroy the evidence before your better half finds it as well and says a few things that a wife should never say to her husband. But that’s a subject for another article.

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