10 Things Never to Say to Your Adult Children

Susan B. Mead

Updated Aug 22, 2023
10 Things Never to Say to Your Adult Children

Emotions may be triggered by that one word for many.

May I pose a question?
Do you realize they are our legacy?

The babe that babbles
The two-year-old that toddles and tumbles
The teen that tests limits – and tempts fate
The young adult – the millennial – that begins “adulting”
The older adult that is now parenting

What connects these statements? Children. They are our children.

It’s our responsibility to mold and shape the next generation, one child at a time. Like every generation before them, the generation behind us needs to know one thing – they matter. Specifically that they matter to you, their parent. And our words matter – possibly more than we realize.

There are things we need to say – and not say – to build confidence, esteem, and self-respect at each stage of their lives. If we don’t support our children, who will? And where will they turn? And what will they turn to for solace when they cannot find it from us?

So many things can tear a person down, not all can be addressed in a single article. Let’s look at a few that have a powerful but negative impact on our kids. Like poison kills a person, poisonous words kill the spirit and soul of a person.

Regardless of your age, what would you not want to hear your parents say to you? With that in mind, here are 10 things not to say to your adult children:

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/fizkes
senior woman in counseling looking sad and upset, how to handle estrangement from adult children

1. I wish I’d never had you.

Death. My spirit is challenged just writing that sentence, yet so many people have heard that judgment rendered against them by one or both parents.

God has something better to say about your child. Oh by the way, if your parents broke your spirit with spiteful words, every time you read the words your child, please replace it in your head with the word you.

You guided my conception and formed me in the womb.  Job 10:10

God created your child. He guided one particular egg and one particular sperm to connect to create one unique person. And God continues with His truth.

“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.”  Jeremiah 1:5

Never before and never since has that unique person, your child, walked this earth to do what God formed them to do. God set your child apart for some special assignment that only they can do. Thank You, O Mighty God!

Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Daisy-Daisy

man upset and stressed battling sin

2. You were an accident.

Whether it was a happy accident or an unhappy accident, your child hears “You don’t want me.” And the damage is done in four words.

I speak from experience as I shared that casually in a conversation with my younger son when he was a teenager. He was SO VERY WELCOME when I learned the great news we were expecting him, yet what he heard was we didn’t want him. That broke his heart – and mine for unintentionally inflicting a wound.

You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.  Psalm 139:15

And God watched as your child was formed and woven in the womb. That is no accident.

And now the Lord speaks— the one who formed me in my mother’s womb to be his servant, who commissioned me to bring Israel back to him. The Lord has honored me, and my God has given me strength.  Isaiah 49:5

God created your child to be His servant. God commissioned your child for a special task, He honors your child and gives your child strength. Did you know that? Does your child know it?

Photo Credit: ©GettyImagesRawpixel

woman on couch talking to mom or mother in law

3. You’ll never or you can’t…

The words that follow either of those two don’t matter as the walls have gone up and the mind has shut down in your child.

 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  Philippians 4:13

Children don’t have the filters of not possible ingrained. Yet our children stop believing as they grow into adults. Remind your adult child that it’s CHRIST IN THEM that allows them to do anything and all things. That means yes, your child CAN!

So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.  2 Thessalonians 1:11

Glory to God! His word says He will enable your child to accomplish ALL the good things your child’s faith prompts your child to do. So pray and encourage your child with this verse. Read also Ecclesiastes 3:1; Psalm 20:4 and Psalm 33:11; Proverbs 19:21 and Proverbs 20:5: Jeremiah 15:11; Romans 8:28; 1 Corinthians 3:8;Ephesians 1:11; Philippians 2:13.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/izkes

Woman crying sad at computer

4. You’re worthless…

God says otherwise.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  Jeremiah 29:11

God’s plans are for the good of your child.

I replied, “But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose. Yet I leave it all in the Lord’s hand; I will trust God for my reward.”   Isaiah 49:4

Have you heard your child say that their work seems so useless?! Even Isaiah felt useless and worthless, yet he determined to trust the Lord. Even God’s mighty prophet felt useless, yet chose to trust God for his reward. Teach your child this worthwhile lesson.

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Charday Penn
mom on cell phone ignoring child distracted parent

5. I’m too busy…

I pray all you meant was you were too busy for that one moment…yet what does your child hear – regardless of their age or how many times they hear this statement? You’re too busy to bother carving out time for them. They don’t matter to you. You have other priorities, and it does not include your child.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”   Romans 12:2

Ask yourself this question – what is God’s perfect will regarding how you spend your time with your family?

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.”  Psalm 127:3-5

Your heritage. Do not put yourself to shame by abandoning your child with your busyness. I’m preaching to myself here too! You see, many years ago, my dad was too busy to come see my new house 10 minutes from the airport during a layover. I was so hurt that Dad didn’t make time for me, especially when he made time to visit another sibling the following week. Learn from someone else’s parenting mistake.

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Yuliya Taba
Couple on couch family conflict discussion arguing

6. You must do and be…

When you encourage achievement and perfection in such a demanding way that your child feels pressured beyond reasonable bounds, the potential exists to virtually destroy your adult child’s drive – and their desire to live. Your child learns that NOTHING they do pleases or satisfies you. Their response may become “why bother?” And we have seen the suicide rates climb nearly 30 percent among Americans ages 35-64 from 1999 to 2010 and reach a 30 year high in 2016.

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.  Ephesians 6:4

Instruct and encourage your child in the Lord’s ways. Teach them who they are and Whose they are – even as adults.

Everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard,  Romans 3:23

Newsflash! Perfection is not humanly possible – except for Jesus. And even Jesus was giving the choice to make for Himself – not My will, but Yours…

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/PixelsEffect
close-up of hand holding measuring tape

7. You’re too fat – or skinny

For your adult child who has an issue with a food, an eating disorder, or is chronically under or overweight, your words can either lift them up or let them down.

Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.  Proverbs 16:24

Choose words that help your child heal.

A joyful heart is good medicine, But a broken spirit dries up the bones.  Proverbs 17:22

Be good medicine for your adult child. Serve them gracious words.

See also Psalm 19:10; Proverbs 4:22 16:23, 15:26, 24:14

Photo credit: © Unsplash/Jennifer Burk
Comforting grieving spouse crying

8. Get out of my life. Never come back here…

Here’s what God’s word says.

Get out of my life, you evil-minded people, for I intend to obey the commands of my God. Psalm 119:115

Get out you evil-minded people – I pray that is not your child. Do choose to obey the commands of God.

I have asked the LORD for one thing--this is what I desire! I want to live in the LORD's house all the days of my life, so I can gaze at the splendor of the LORD and contemplate in his temple.  Psalm 27:4

Your child has one house where he or she is always welcome – the house of the Lord.

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Drazen Zigic
Mentor older and younger woman talking

9. Never tell anyone about…

A secret can literally wrap your child’s mind in chains regardless of their age. Immobilizing. Controlling. Damaging. Destroying. Life.

For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.  Luke 8:17

What is done “in the dark” will come to light. Light heals as Jesus is The Light of the Lord. Healer. Redeemer. Savior and King.

For everything hidden is meant to be revealed, and everything concealed is meant to be brought to light.  Mark 4:22

Read also Proverbs 26:26; Ecclesiastes 12:14; Matthew 10:26; Luke 12:2-3 and  1 Corinthians 4:5.

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/evgenyatamanenko
an elderly man, life expectancy is not bouncing back in America

10. I hate you.

God is good all the time – hold that in your right hand.

The enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy – hold that in your left hand.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  John 10:10

God is love 1 John 4:8 and 1 John 4:16

I frequently share the illustration and verses above to help people SEE good and evil in everyday living – they can think of what they experience and determine either good or evil.

I believe if you know love you know God. Help your child seek Him while He may be found for an even richer, deeper and more meaningful relationship filled with faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love.

Content taken from the article, "10 Things Not to Say to Your Adult Children," written by Susan Mead. To read the text version please click the link.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/NADOFOTOS

Originally published Wednesday, 31 May 2023.