Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” What we look for, what we believe, what we expect, what we seek, we will find. If we expect that our children will be trouble, if we verbalize it, not only do we find it even in places where it doesn’t exist, but we also put that thought into the minds of our children. Here are seven foolish things moms say that create poor expectations for both parent and child and cause the very things we are trying to avoid.

1. Belittling

“Johnny, how many times have I told you not to do these stupid things?”

“Johnny’s always messing up his schoolwork.”

This one isn’t a specific word or phrase but a series of things moms say, either in front of or to their children, that tend to humiliate or focus on what the child doesn’t do well. This embarrasses the child, who then concentrates more energy on the problem instead of the solution.

“And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

Parenting isn’t for wimps. It’s an eighteen-year (or longer) tireless commitment that tests your patience and brings you to the edge of your sanity in sleep deprivation. This is why God, in his infinite wisdom, gives us nine months to prepare for babyhood and eighteen years to prepare our children for their adulthood. It’s understandable that parents sometimes get overwhelmed, but it’s important not to speak out of our frustration or anger. It’s imperative that we take care not to damage our children’s self-esteem by constantly pointing out their flaws, especially in front of others.

2. “Not now. I’m busy.”

Saying this frequently will give our children the impression that we either don’t have the time or won’t take the time for them when they need us. Moms are some of the busiest people on the planet, but we should always remember our most precious charge: our children. They should come first, and they should know that they come first. Not only should we moms not say this, but it’s equally important not to give this impression with our body language.

If children feel that we are too busy to talk to them, they will feel as if they don’t matter and will be less likely to come to us when they have a problem or a concern. This can be devastating when their concern is with us.

3. “Do as I say, not as I do.”

This is just a silly saying in my humble opinion. Yes, there are things adults can and should do that are not appropriate for children, but this saying goes far beyond that. What this often communicates to our children is that we have the freedom to make bad choices, but they do not. I’ve heard many parents use this saying as an excuse to make bad decisions they don’t want their children to make.

We are to set the example for our children. Fourteen-year-old Johnny gets in trouble for smoking and reminds Mom that she smokes. “Do as I say, not as I do!” just doesn’t cut it here. Instead of giving an order, explain why you started, why you wish you could quit, and why you don’t want the same for your son. That will make your case for you much more effectively than a mandate not to smoke.

4. “Those dreaded teen years!”

This is one of the most foolish things I hear moms say, especially recently. Did you know that until relatively recently the word teenager didn’t exist? People were children until they were adults; during their childhood, they were prepared to accept and successfully carry out the responsibilities of adulthood. While transition from childhood to adulthood can be difficult, it doesn’t have to be dreaded, and I wouldn’t speak it into existence by uttering this out loud!