Why Telling Your Child To "Shut Up" Is Rude, Unhealthy, and Demeaning

Updated on February 12, 2018

During Phone Conversations

If a parent is on an important phone call and needs a young child to be quiet for a couple of minutes, saying "shut up" in a stern voice just isn't appropriate. It's rude and demeaning. Saying "Just a minute, please" is a lot more constructive and it teaches good manners. Young children are not accessories. When they need your attention or need to feel important, they have the tendency to need you when you are on the phone. To hear a child saying, "Mommy, mommy, mommy..." doesn't earn a "shut up, I'm on the phone." The child is learning (1) "shut up" is appropriate, and (2) it's okay for a parent to be rude his or her child. When the child becomes a teenager and tells the parent to shut up, guess where the behavior was learned?

Saying Shut Up in Public

One year I was in a department store and a mother was yelling at her child who appeared to be three or four. The child started crying and the mother told the child to shut up. Not a positive parenting lesson by any means.

The candy wall next to check-out aisles--whoever thought of this great marketing strategy for children (not parents necessarily) knew the effects of that decision. It is possible to say "no, I'm sorry but we aren't buying any candy today" to your child in a calm civil manner and continue through the check-out aisle. Also, understand that everyone has their own parenting style and a lot of situations are just none of our business. Sure, we can have an opinion, but the circumstance isn't unruly enough to be defined as abuse, it's basically none of our business.

I was taught at an early age never to use the word, "hate," because it's such a strong word. I applied my Dad's reasoning to the phrase, "shut up," and I cringe whenever I hear the word. Some words or phrases that are said habitually to children leave an emotional effect.

If your child is having a tantrum in public, if you think about it, saying "shut up" just is not going to improve the situation, neither is yelling or threatening what's going to happen when you get home.

How to Effectively Say Please Shut Your Pie Hole

At least when someone says, "Shut your pie hole," there is the element of humor. There are other ways of asking someone to be quiet without using rude phrases. If you think about it, when your child starts school and learns that "shut up" is rude and has grown up hearing it, this child might wonder if his parent has been rude or unkind to him or her. This is why we have to be careful what we say and how we say it.

My Mom used to say, "Zip it," and I knew what that meant. Since I was raised in a military background, I would never have talked back and said, "No, you zip it." I think if she would have ever raised her voice to say, "Shut up," my feelings would have been hurt.

Claudia Swisher - High School English Teacher in Norman, OK

"I never say, 'Shut up,' to my students. Never. Well, never until after I tell them I love them. When a student is being particularly goofy in class, when I've told him to refocus, be quiet, when I'm on my last nerve, I will lean down on his desk, look closely at him and say, 'I love you. Now please, shut up.' I use the same tone of voice for both contradictory messages. Soon it becomes a class joke: Any time I tell a student, 'I love you,' the class chimes in, 'Shut up.' Then, I only have to say, 'I love you,' to control that occasional hyperactive, loud student. The behavior stops. No one misinterprets my message: I love my students!"

Resource: Excerpt from "Shut-Up and Other No-Nos" by Alain Jehlen, http://www.nea.org/archive/10996.htm

Teachers have one of the hardest jobs. They raise our children also. If anyone is put into a situation to exclaim, "Shut up!" to a young adolescent, it would be a teacher. If our child came home from school and informed a teacher told him or her to "shut up," a lot of us might be outraged. I liked the example above because it was performed in a positive manner without yelling.

Have I Ever Said Shut Up?

Of course. I've even said it in humor to my friends. But I have always embraced the phrase, "Be quiet," more than I would prescribe to saying, "Shut up," to my children as they were growing up. I have never liked the phrase. I also don't believe that anger is part of any solution and that we have to maintain a certain tolerance level when teaching children lessons. I wouldn't even tell my adult children to shut up.

People who need the last word or who want to put an end to a conversation will say "shut up." Saying this phrase never really helps anyone and even though it may feel right to a parent at certain times, it really isn't appropriate. When you hear the phrase, it is carried with a rude tone and when you hear a parent screaming it to a child in public, it sounds offensive. And the last thing a parent should want is to hear their child saying it to someone else.

Chinese Proverb

Not the fastest horse can catch a word spoken in anger.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Submit a Comment
  • ytsenoh profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

    Sjc, thanks for the read and your time in leaving a comment. Best regards.

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    I completely agree. There are many ways to get your young one to stop talking. I submitted quite a few on communication, and wish I would have thought of specifying topics like this.

  • ytsenoh profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

    teaches, thanks very much for your kind comment. Have a pleasant weekend.

  • teaches12345 profile image

    Dianna Mendez 

    7 years ago

    Your parents were wise to teach you great manners. I never used the word with my child and thankfully, he doesn't use it with his either. It sounds rude and embarrassing to the receiver. Hate, as you say, is another word that should be proper usage. Great hub here and voted up.

  • ytsenoh profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

    Angela, agreed. Thanks much for your comment.

  • Angela Brummer profile image

    Angela Brummer 

    7 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

    I find it alarming to say shut up to a dog... horrifiying if it is said to a child! It is so important to want children to speak to you. It would be awfull to miss something you really needed to hear from them. Shut up would only discourage them from speaking to the parents.

  • ytsenoh profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

    Stessily, I agree, and I think at any age, it never sounds appropriate. I have never liked hearing it, it still makes me cringe. Thanks for reading.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    ytesnoh, "Shut up" has such an unpleasant connotation for me. My parents never used that phrase, and I have never felt comfortable with it. It always seems jarring. I infinitely prefer and exclusively use "Be quiet", which is gentle and respectful, even when said in a loud voice.

  • ytsenoh profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

    Stephaniedas, thanks much for your comment. The phrase is just demeaning, and whether it's directed to a child or an adult, it has not positive effect.

  • stephaniedas profile image

    Stephanie Das 

    8 years ago from Miami, US

    I totally agree! I cringe when I heard parents talk to their kids like this, though I remind myself that their parents probably talked to them that way. I think that hearing shut up as a child can be very hurtful and shocking. On the flip side, the phrase might be "dumbed down" after the kid gets used to it.

  • ytsenoh profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

    smarter4ever, thanks for your comment and happy you enjoyed this read. I remember as an adult, I would hear my late mother say, "shut [pause] it," with it being the mouth that would never stop giving and giving and was probably complaining which she didn't like. I think the phrase just sounds mean.

  • smarter4ever profile image


    8 years ago from Wisconsin

    I really like this. I also have been raised not to say shut up. My Gram (grandmother) used to and still says "be shut." Her and I had this conversation a few times...I like your sense of humor too, by the way!

  • smzclark profile image


    8 years ago from cheshire

    i don't like it either. speaking to a child in a calm and polite manner always has the best effects.

  • BlissfulWriter profile image


    8 years ago

    I agree that "Shut up" should not be said to kids nor adults. I have never recall ever saying those words.

  • ytsenoh profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

    Earl, thanks very much for your comment. I have never liked the phrase, "shut up," for any reason and most importantly and specifically, when it's directed to a child.

  • Earl S. Wynn profile image

    Earl S. Wynn 

    8 years ago from California

    Great topic! It's nice to see a hub like this that takes an enlightened and reasonable approach to parenting. I've always tried to say nicer things than "shut up" when raising my little sister (we're 15 years apart) and I've tried to learn from the mistakes (I felt) that my parents made. The world could do with more hubs like this one. :)

  • kimh039 profile image

    Kim Harris 

    8 years ago

    Thank you for having the patience to break this down! I am amazed when people think it's ok to say shut up to anyone, especially a child. Lately "shut up" has been used in a different context (like "you don't say?" or "no way") and I think it made it acceptable again. Thanks Ytsenoh - very clear and well written message:)

  • Robin profile image

    Robin Edmondson 

    8 years ago from San Francisco

    I agree, shut up, hate and stupid are three words we don't say in our house. When we were kids if we said shut-up we had to pay the recipient a dollar. I liked the teacher story, though. funny. ;)

  • ytsenoh profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

    Thank you for your comment.

  • stayingalivemoma profile image

    Valerie Washington 

    8 years ago from Tempe, Arizona

    I agree and usually tell them to be quiet instead. It's less demeaning and they still get my point.


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