5 Parenting Cliches I Will Never Teach My Kids

There is almost nothing more loathsome than a cliche. They are the trite, meaningless platitudes meant to sound deep, but almost invariably reveal whoever is speaking to be not a very deep thinker. And they're even worse when it comes to parenting.

The fact is, all children are different. All families are different. (Yes, even happy ones. Take that Tolstoy!) When people ask things like "didn't your mother ever teach you (fill in the blank)?" my answer is usually no. And thank goodness. My parents valued individuality over trite "rules" for living that we all should obey. I will practice the same.

Aside from the Golden Rule ("Do unto others ..."), there are few "rules" to life. So here are a few cliches I will not teach my kids any time soon:


"There are starving children in Africa": There are starving children everywhere, all over the world. Certainly, children should be aware of their privilege and be taught how lucky they are, but forcing a child to eat everything on his or her plate does nothing but foster obesity and an inability to recognize one's own hunger cues.

"Children should be seen and not heard": I happen to like children a whole lot better than I like adults. I, for one, would much rather hear a child talk about his life or her interests than I would like to hear an adult on his cellphone or talking loudly in a restaurant or being rude to a cashier. I'm not sure where we got the notion that children are ruder than adults, but it's a fallacy. I would never teach my children to stifle themselves or be quiet.

"Nice girls don't...": This one is as awful as is its variation: "that's not very ladylike!" My daughter will be a strong woman who doesn't play by anyone's rules for "nice" girls. "Nice" is just a kinder way of saying bland and boring. I don't expect her to be mean, but I also don't expect her to play by any rules but her own. After all, successful women don't worry whether people think they're "nice." They just do what they want.

"If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all": This one kills me because no successful person lives by this. Honesty can sometimes hurt and it's not always "nice." If I only ever said "nice" things, I wouldn't say much at all. The world isn't so easily divided into "nice" and "mean." That said, I do want my children to practice the idea that they shouldn't say things behind backs (or online) that they wouldn't be courageous enough to say to someone's face.

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me": This is commonly said on the playground in reaction to taunts by fellow schoolmates. While there is some element of truth to it -- being called names shouldn't affect children so deeply and they should have enough confidence to let it roll off their backs -- it's also untrue. Names can hurt deeply, and while I want my kids to be strong enough not to be hurt if they are called names, I also would never want them to be the ones calling anyone names.

None of these are true anymore in our world and these outdated bits of "wisdom" need to be revamped for the modern world in which we live. No, my mother never taught me any of this trite crap, and you know what? I am thankful every day.

Do you have any parenting cliches you won't follow?


Read More >