“Be a Big Boy” (Or “Girl”) and Other Popular Phrases to Avoid

don't say that
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I do not often go off on a full blown rant, so I figured why not? It is about time. Want to come along for the ride? Here we go…

There are a bunch of phrases or sayings or sentences or whatever, that grown ups say to kids all the time. There are 3 in particular that I would like to BAN FOREVER. They are confusing, belittling, and sometimes untrue:

You get what you get and you don’t get upset.

This is my least favorite phrase of all time. Why? you may ask. Here ya go:

I am completely fine with the “You get what you get” part. If we let every child in a class – or even in a family of two – choose the color of a cup, plate, toy car, cereal, and so on, every time there was a choice to be made, we would never get past breakfast. While choices are important, we do not always have the time to give to the choosing. So sure, sometimes you do get what you get.

Again, fine by me. What does get my goat is the “and you don’t get upset” part. Ummm, what right do I have to tell someone else what not to be upset about? Sure, kid, you wanted the blue plate, but your brother got it first and you are upset – go for it. Small friend, you wanted the purple drum in music, but got green and you hate green. Be disappointed. We need to stop telling kids how NOT to feel. Sure there are times that you get what you get, but go ahead and be upset if that is how your self is feeling. Who am I to tell you not to?

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It doesn’t matter, they are all the same. 

I heard this phrase in a music class in reference to shaker eggs (and a billion times before). These eggs are basically high-end Easter eggs with stuff inside so they rattle when shaken. I get what the teacher was trying to say, but she could NOT have been more wrong. The eggs are, in fact, very much so NOT the same. They come in a variety of colors and even a few sizes, and one – the very special one (she must have been out of her mind when she thought to bring it) – was gold. So, in fact, they are not all the same and it may matter to the child. She wanted a blue egg and that is not the same as the red one that she has. Not to say that a teacher has to spend 20 minutes making sure each child has his or her favorite shaker egg (sort of like what was mentioned above), but there is also no need to pretend that they are all same.

It may, in the mind of a child, “matter” and things that we lump as the same, are often NOT. Honestly, you know that you have sized up the last few slices of pizza and knew which one you wanted, and that is because – though it is all pizza – the slices are NOT the same. (You wanted the one loaded with olives and less spinach.)

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Be a big boy/girl.

What you are really saying is, stop whining or stop fighting or stop being silly or do what I want. The aforementioned phrase is confusing and, at the same time, quite demeaning. You are calling the child a baby, a huge insult in the realm of kid-dom.

If you are looking for a specific behavior, ask for it. Kids can be confused by random generalizations such as “Be a big boy” or “Don’t be a baby”. Instead try, “I want to hear what you say, but I need you to stop whining. I cannot understand you. Use your calm words.” “I know that waiting is hard, but it is not safe to climb on the chair. Let’s read a book while we wait.” Clarity, not name-calling, will get you the behavior that you are looking for.

These three phrases may seem harmless, but what they are is dismissive. They disrespect a child’s feelings AND intelligence. They may roll off of the tongue, but that does not mean that we should be using them. What may seem trivial to a grownup is meaningful to a child. Okay, rant over. I won’t do THAT for awhile.

Ahhhh, that did feel a bit cathartic though…

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Brandi Davis, ACC, is a professional Parenting Coach, Parent Educator, and Author of O.K. I’m A Parent Now What? She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and be sure to catch her parenting podcasts on iTunes. The goal of Brandi’s practice is to bring respect, calm communication, teamwork, and FUN into the home or classroom. To discover all that Child and Family Coaching can bring to your family stop by www.childandfamilycoaching.com.

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3 thoughts on ““Be a Big Boy” (Or “Girl”) and Other Popular Phrases to Avoid

  1. When I was student teaching I never heard “you get what you get and don’t get upset” the teacher said “you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit”.

    I don’t particularly care for the big boy: big girl thing for a different reason, mostly because it’s used out of context and ‘big’ is supposed to emphasizes size, not maturity. Plus once you lable a child a big kid they misunderstand when you say something is for big kids/ older kids- it’s confusing.

  2. yes… I also hate those expressions…my most hated is “don’t be a baby” they are babies…..

  3. Interesting. I’ve always interpreted “You get what you get and you don’t get upset” to mean “You get what you get and you don’t air your disappointment by pitching a fit, throwing the offending plate, or hitting your brother.” But that’s a little wordy and negatively suggestive. But I hadn’t considered that it was negating their right to feel sad. I’m curious now to ask my kids what they think it means.

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