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