It might seem helpful to hold out a sibling or friend as a shining example. "Look how well Sam zips his coat," you might say. Or "Jenna's using the potty already, so why can't you do that too?" But comparisons almost always backfire. Your child is herself, not Sam or Jenna.
It's natural for parents to compare their kids, to look for a frame of reference about their milestones or their behavior, say experts.
But don't let your child hear you doing it. Kids develop at their own pace and have their own temperament and personality. Comparing your child to someone else implies that you wish yours were different.
Nor does making comparisons help change behavior. Being pressured to do something she's not ready for (or doesn't like to do) can be confusing to a little kid and can undermine her self-confidence. She's also likely to resent you and resolve not to do what you want, in a test of wills.
Instead, encourage her current achievements: "Wow, you put both arms in your coat all by yourself!" Or "Thanks for telling me your diaper needs changing."
#5. 'You know better than that!'
Like comparisons, quick gibes can sting in ways parents never imagine. For one thing, a child actually may not have known better. Learning is a process of trial and error. Did your child really understand that a heavy pitcher would be hard to pour from? Maybe it didn't seem that full, or it was different from the one he's successfully poured from by himself at preschool.
And even if he made the same mistake just yesterday, your comment is neither productive nor supportive. Give your child the benefit of the doubt, and be specific. Say "I like it better if you do it this way, thank you."
Similar jabs include "I can't believe you did that!" and "It's about time!" They may not seem awful, but you don't want to say them too much. They add up, and the underlying message kids hear is: "You're a pain in the neck, and you never do anything right."
#6. 'Stop or I'll give you something to cry about!'
Threats, usually the result of parental frustration, are rarely effective. We sputter warnings like "Do this or else!" or "If you do that one more time, I'll spank you!"
The problem is that sooner or later you have to make good on the threat or else it loses its power. Threats of hitting have been found to lead to more spanking -- which itself has been proven to be an ineffective way to change behavior.
The younger a child is, the longer it takes for a lesson to sink in. "Studies have shown that the odds of a two-year-old's repeating a misdeed later in the same day are eighty percent no matter what sort of discipline you use," says Murray Straus, Ph.D., a sociologist at the University of New Hampshire's Family Research Lab.
Even with older kids, no discipline strategy yields surefire results right off the bat every time. So it's more effective to develop a repertoire of constructive tactics, such as redirection, removing the child from the situation, or time-outs, than it is to rely on those with proven negative consequences, including verbal threats and spanking.