Let’s face it mums and dads – you’ve all said things you shouldn’t say to your partner in your journey of parenting and marriage together.
And who can blame you anyway? Parenting is tough (so is marriage!). You never sleep enough, and your day can be full of temper tantrums (some of them not your child’s). It’s pretty easy to lash out at your partner when you’ve just had it with the kids.
But what we often forget is that parenting is a two-person job. It’s better to avoid things you shouldn’t say rather than regret it later on. This is because harsh words can leave a lasting, negative impact on a relationship that could eventually turn it bitter and beyond repair.
So, dear parents, here’s a gentle reminder about things you should avoid saying to your spouse, however tired or frustrated you are.
Things you shouldn’t say to your partner in parenting
1. “I told you so.”
It feels good when it turns out you’re right. But saying “I told you so” is a not very nice way of proving to your partner that they are wrong and you are right (which they probably know already).
It does nothing to strengthen your relationship either or improve your parenting skills and definitely is in the list of things you shouldn’t say to your partner.
Instead of saying “I told you so”, have a heartfelt chat with your partner about the situation and parenting lessons learned from it for both of you. Remember that this is best done after the kids go to bed, with a glass (or two!) of wine and a good laugh at the ‘mistake’!
2. “That’s not what the book says.”
First-time parents especially tend to read a lot of parenting books before and after baby arrives. Yes, there are some literary gems out there. But the truth is, no book can ever prepare you for the roller coaster ride that is parenting.
You are the child’s parents. The books are not going to raise your kids. Just because the books say so, it doesn’t mean you or your partner should do exactly the same.
Remember that babies are not born with a full set of instructions. We learn and adapt to parenting as the years go by and our kids grow up. And in this journey together, it’s normal to make mistakes because each baby is unique, and so are you.
So if your partner does something you don’t quite agree with or goes off-script, be gentle on them. Understand where they were coming from, and try to respect the intention behind their action/s.
3. “Well, the kids don’t act like that with me.”
Each person, whether adult or kid, is different. They also behave differently with different people… just like you do.
It’s quite normal for kids to behave differently with each parent, sometimes acting up more with one of you than the other.
But just because a child favours one parent over the other at one point does not make that parent the better one.
Sometimes a favoured parent can be more lenient, and that’s may not be what the child needs all the time. Be the parent your child needs, not wants. It’s worth stressing that you and your spouse are partners for a reason.
4. “You weren’t watching them closely enough.”
The other day my son fell and cut his head – he needed three stitches for the resulting gash. The accident happened in a split second, and I was right there when he fell.
It was a good reminder that the universe is a chaotic place. There’s just a tiny fraction of it under your control. Accidents will happen, even under your watch.
So when an accident involving your child does happen, instead of blaming your partner, talk about solutions. Blaming one another will only cause a gap between you that will grow wider every time the finger is pointed at the other.
5. “You should really clean more.”
Keeping a household together is tough. There’s laundry to wash, clothes to fold, food to cook and bathrooms to clean. And when it’s all over, it’s probably time to do it all again. Meanwhile, nobody’s going to inspect your house and drive you out of it if it doesn’t meet cleanliness standards.
Saying someone “should” do something is part passive-aggressive command, part blame game. Plan chores with your partner, rather than not talking about it and expecting them to do something.
6. “My friend’s partner does it this way.”
Comparing your partner to another person’s spouse is just asking for trouble.
Wanting your partner to behave like someone else makes your partner feel unwanted. Doing so does not improve the situation, and it does not make your partner better at solving the problem at hand either.
They cannot simply become the ideal you have in your mind. Saying these words only puts undue pressure on your partner to become someone else.
Focus instead on their contributions and how they can be better. Appreciate them for what they do right in parenting and encourage them instead of putting them down.
If you’d like them to do something in a different way, make a reasonable and specific request.
7. “My mum suggested we try this.”
Parenting styles change through generations and more often than not, the old ways don’t age well.
For example, if you were spanked as a child and you tell your partner (who is against hitting) “I was spanked as a child but I turned out alright,” you are insinuating that corporal punishment is okay. You are also undermining your partner’s parenting philosophy.
Do keep in mind that what worked for you may not work for everyone. Try coming up with unique solutions based on your child’s personality and age. For example, a positive parenting tactic such as reasoning with your child may work better than traditional methods of punishment.
8. “Do they really need that?”
Don’t undermine your partner’s authority in front of your child. It’s not helping both of you. If your child loses his or her trust in your partner, then all the pressure falls on you.
If you have any criticisms, discuss them in private later.
9. “You’re crazy!”
Same goes for “koo-koo,” “nuts,” or “insane.” These words are demeaning and moreover, by saying such words, you’re teaching your child that it’s okay not to respect your partner. Your child is also learning that it’s fine to call someone else names.
10. “It’s all your fault.”
And so we come to the most direct way of assigning blame. This tops the list of things you shouldn’t say because it’s non-constructive. This widens the divide between you, and it leads to anger.
Instead of pointing fingers, ask your partner what they would have done differently. You can even suggest solutions to help your partner. Be constructive regarding the problem at hand.
For example, instead of saying “It’s your fault we’re late because you wanted to clean the room before we left,” you can say, “Would it be alright if you clean the room earlier? I can help you so you can finish faster.”
11. “You always….” or “You never…”
Psychologists John Gottman and Robert Levenson identified four communication habits that predicted divorce with startling accuracy (93% of the time, in fact). They are contempt, stonewalling, defensiveness, and criticism. In other words, the fab four of things you shouldn’t say to your partner.
Instead of discussing your partner’s failings, be constructive. Tell them how you feel, not who/what they are. Then make suggestions while keeping in mind that your partner is not your enemy.
12. “Just be nicer/better,” or making vague suggestions
Again, such statements are not helpful. Suggestions are better than criticism, but when they’re vague and unrealistic, these are things you shouldn’t say at all.
If you’re going to communicate, be clear and concise. Don’t beat around the bush and spend too many words trying to drive home a point because you want to punish your partner.
Instead, be specific and let it be over with.
It’s the other D-word you can’t say. This is probably one of the worst things you shouldn’t say to your partner. It will hang over your partner’s head and yours, because vocalising it is like making a decision for the other without their consent.
Just take a deep breath and tell them how you feel. Then explain what you want them to do in the future. Nobody likes to be in the dark!
If you’re angry, tell them you need a short time to cool off, but make sure you go back to the conversation within the day.
14. “This is why my father doesn’t like you,” or taking a side that isn’t your partner’s
You and your partner are on the same team. The last thing you need to do is align your loyalties with someone else, even if it’s your blood.
You don’t need to gang up on your partner. If you disagree with your partner and agree with another party, you can discuss it without backing your partner into a corner.
You may call this the “silent treatment.” It is also the weapon of choice of the passive-aggressive. In couples’ therapist terms, this is called “stonewalling,” and may be an indicator of divorce down the line.
This is harmful to a relationship because it disconnects both parties and creates frustration and undue tension.
Instead of just walking out or ignoring them without a word, preface it with a few words expressing your need to “cool off.” Tell them you need some time alone. Just make sure to continue the conversation later.
So there you have it mums and dads – things you shouldn’t say to each other, however angry or tensed-up you may be. We hope this information helps you better your relationship, and importantly, your parenting journey together.
Also read: “7 things that can predict divorce, according to science”.