15 Useless Phrases That Parents Use

by Christina Antus
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My dad had a phrase he used to say, “You can shit in your mess kit, but eventually, you’ll have to eat it.” While I appreciate the sentiment, and the very disgusting way of saying, “What goes around comes around,” it is by the far one of the dumbest phrases I’ve ever heard — because why would I eat my own shit? Even people on Naked and Afraid don’t eat their own shit, and they are starving, literally, for 21 days. (Sometimes 40 days if you are on the super-sized episode where you are so malnourished your hair falls out.)

The nice thing about having small kids is they’re too little to know any better when it comes to stupid phrases. The extent of their vocabulary and phrases is whatever you use around the house, and what they see on Sprout. Besides, most kids aren’t listening anyway.

For years, I didn’t understand my dad’s expression, and even now, at the ripe old age of not-27-anymore, it’s still not the best phrase for that life lesson. But as a parent, I find few useful phrases I can actually use around my kids. I think for most of us we say stuff to censor ourselves because saying, “Oh my word, what is that smell under your bed?” sounds so much better around your 5-year-old than, “What the hell died in here?” We don’t need to know what “Oh my word” is even supposed to mean because it’s a filler phrase. It’s just something to say.

Here are a few of my other favorite useless parenting phrases:

1. You KNOW.

No, they don’t. Neither do you. No one does. Like supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, this is something to say when there’s nothing else to say — only much dumber. It’s another filler phrase.

2. Are you kidding me?!

Obviously dumping an entire bag of flour all over your kitchen floor was not because your toddler thought it would be a super funny prank. So, no, they aren’t kidding. This is probably best used as more of a rhetorical question than literal. No one is ever kidding about anything until they turn 5 and can tell an actual joke.

3. Knock it off!

Let’s think about this as a literal phrase for a minute. If we can conclude that your child has set their sippy cup on the counter and you very much want to see it hit the floor and make a huge mess, then, this is the correct thing to say to them. If you are, say, wanting them to stop slapping the cat, you could just tell them to stop slapping the cat.

4. I’m done.

And maybe you are. Probably, you were done months ago, but the legality of your situation requires you not to be done for another 17 years. So, toss this in the filler phrase bucket and “be done” while cleaning up that mess for the 47th time today.

5. WOW!

This isn’t ever used because you’re happy about a fun surprise. This phrase is only reserved for those times when you have absolutely nothing else to say because you are so pissed off, you could shit a brick. (See what I did there?)

6. This is ridiculous!

And it is. It’s always ridiculous. The very definition of this word is deserving or inviting derision or mockery; absurd. And while watching the cat flail around the inside of the toilet is both ridiculous and inviting mockery, no child is really going to get the extent of where you’re going with this.

7. You’ve got another think coming.

This is usually used as follows: “If you think you don’t have to go to bed, you’ve got another think coming.” And they go to bed. Or they spend an entire night of endless trips to your bedroom with petty requests of excess water and otherwise not going to bed.

8. If you’re going to do something, do it right.

If you’re going to sweep the floor, then yes, use a broom and sweeping motions. If you’re going to do trigonometry and don’t fully understand it, wait for help to be shown how. Don’t light your paper on fire.

9. No one ever said that life was fair.

While it’s true that life is anything but fair, it hardly warrants being said when your 4-year-old child drops her ice cream cone and watches it turn into a puddle in the summer heat. She doesn’t care if life isn’t fair; she just wants to lick the ice cream up off the ground.

10. I don’t give a rat’s ass.

And that is fantastic because I don’t know many folks (adult or child) who want a rat’s ass.

11. So help me.

Who is this “So,” and how can they help? Are they a child whisperer? A patience giver? Do tell.

12. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Tell that to Famous Dave’s on Tuesdays if you’re 12 or under.

13. To assume is to make an ass out of you and me.

A lesson in both life and spelling. Two birds, people. Two birds.

14. You can wish in one hand and shit in the other. See which one gets filled up first.

Why would shit in your own hand? So you could put it in your mess kit and eat it?

15. If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, every day would be Christmas.

Because what kid doesn’t want a container of peanuts for Christmas?

Obviously, we don’t have enough time to cover them all, and I’m sure you all have a few favorites that either you use, or your parents used to use. I find the previous generation or three has much more colorful phrases than our generations’ lazy “I’m done,” or “So help me.” (After all, who doesn’t think ifs and buts are funny? Pretty much everyone from the past three generations.)

Seriously, though, life isn’t fair, and it’s hard to teach. That’s why we have these stupid phrases we fall back on, because how do you verbalize your reaction to things that there are no words for? You wing it. Just like how you parent — one day at a time. One rat’s ass at a time. Think about it, you know, before you tackle that mess kit.