18 Things You Should Never Say to Your Grandkids

Watching grandchildren grow up can be a rewarding and loving experience, but it’s important to ensure you don’t damage your connection by causing feelings of dismissal, disconnection, or not being good enough. Avoid these 18 phrases to ensure you create a strong emotional bond with your grandkids.

“Why Can’t You Be More Like Your Sibling/Cousin?”

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According to BetterUp, being compared to a sibling conveys the idea that you’re not good enough. They say that “eventually, you may internalize this message, which can trigger mental health challenges linked to poor self-esteem, such as anxiety and stress.” Instead, try to celebrate the individual strengths and differences of your grandchildren.

“In My Day, We Didn’t Do That”

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Of course, there will be differences in the experiences and behaviors that might be normal for your grandchildren compared to your upbringing, but dismissing your grandchild’s experience of life can be belittling. Instead, try to tell stories of your childhood and share wisdom.

“You Spend Too Much Time On Your Phone”

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Dismissing the importance of modern communication methods can be perceived as judgmental or out of touch, leaving your grandchildren feeling dismissed. Try to understand that phones and other gadgets are often important tools for your grandchildren’s education, hobbies, interests, and communication with others.

“You Should Lose Some Weight”

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Commenting on someone’s physical appearance can impact their self-esteem, and the New York Times says, “Comments about a child’s weight are often predictors of unhealthy dieting behaviors, binge eating, and other eating disorders, and may inadvertently reinforce negative stereotypes about weight that children internalize.”

“Boys/Girls Don’t Do That”

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Gender stereotypes can have significant effects on a child’s development, as they are led to believe they aren’t allowed to behave or express themselves in certain ways. Instead, try to celebrate your grandchildren’s individuality and embrace their interests, regardless of traditional gender norms.

“You Don’t Have It That Hard”

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Each generation faces new struggles and issues, and while your grandchildren are unlikely to have the same problems you faced, they are just as valid. By dismissing their struggles, you can leave them feeling invalidated. Instead, try to understand and empathize with their challenges, and share your perspective without dismissing their experience.

“You Should Smile More”

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Everyone expresses themselves in their own individual way, and calling out your grandchildren for not smiling enough can feel intrusive. Try to respect their emotions and allow them to express themselves naturally in order to build a genuine connection between yourself and them.

“That’s a Silly Thing to Be Upset About”

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According to Psych Central, validating a child’s feelings “means acknowledging how your child is feeling in the moment—whether it’s happy, sad, angry, or some other big emotion—without judgment, expectation, or comment on what they ‘should’ be feeling instead.” Instead of dismissing emotions, try to be empathetic and offer support.

“I Don’t Understand Today’s Music/TV Shows”

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Entertainment is forever changing, and while it may seem worlds away from the music or TV you loved growing up, today’s preferences are no less valid. By closing off new trends and interests, you risk seeming out of touch, and your grandchildren might struggle to connect with you.

“When Are You Going to Get a Real Job?”

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This question can impact your grandchild’s sense of self-worth and leave them feeling that you don’t respect or admire their achievements. Job markets and careers are constantly changing as the world innovates, so try to take time to understand their career and offer supportive advice if you can.

“You Shouldn’t Hang Out With Those Types of People”

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Judging your grandchildren’s friends can leave them feeling disconnected from you, as social lives are such an important part of childhood and adolescence. Try to remain open-minded when talking about their friendships and experiences, and share wisdom on how to forge long-lasting, loving friendships from your own experience.

“That Hobby Is a Waste of Time”

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It’s important to respect your grandchildren’s interests and hobbies, and Psychology Today says, “Interests developed in childhood may be things they truly enjoy and sustain an interest in throughout their lives.” Having a diverse range of hobbies helps personal growth and happiness, so try to support their passions even if they seem unconventional.

“You’re Always So Sensitive”

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Labeling emotions as weaknesses can cause children to lack confidence when it comes to expressing their feelings and leave them feeling invalidated in their thoughts and opinions. Instead, take time to understand their emotional responses and support them with the struggles they are facing.

“When I Was Your Age, I Already Had…”

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The image of what success looks like has changed over the last decades, and comparing life milestones such as career progression, buying a house, getting married, or having a baby can put pressure on your grandchildren. Everyone reaches different stages of life at their own pace, so try to encourage their individual achievements without comparison.

“You Need to Toughen Up”

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Suppressing emotions can be harmful, and Good Therapy says, “The biggest problem with telling a child to toughen up is that it undermines true resilience, which is learned by experiencing adversity or uncomfortable feelings, processing why they occur, and learning new and more positive ways to reframe those situations.” Instead, try to validate their feelings and support them in building resilience.

“That’s Not Very Ladylike/Gentlemanly”

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Traditional gender norms are outdated and impersonal, and comparing your grandchildren to traditional ideas of ‘gender-appropriate’ behavior can be damaging to their self-esteem and sense of individuality. Instead, look to celebrate every aspect of their personality without expectation.

“You’ll Change Your Mind When You’re Older”

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Dismissing a young person’s beliefs and choices as phases can leave them feeling dismissed and disconnected from you. Try to take your grandchild’s current ideas and perspectives seriously and add value by discussing future possibilities without undermining their beliefs.

“Don’t Be So Lazy”

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Labeling a grandchild as lazy can be damaging to their sense of self-management. While you might consider them to have a lack of motivation or engagement, they might be putting that effort into alternative interests or ideas, so offer them the opportunity to take part in activities without judging them if they don’t feel like it.

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