What Parents Say And What They Really Mean

Matt Brown
Jan 24, 2024 By Matt Brown
Originally Published on Apr 01, 2021
Parents often tell their kids one thing, while meaning another.
Age: 0-99
Read time: 3.5 Min

Do you find yourself saying stuff to your kids that isn’t really 100% true? I think we all do it from time to time. Kids can be so demanding that, with the best will in the world, we sometimes need to throw a diversion, deflect an argument or tell a few porkies to get them to behave as we’d like. Here, then, are 16 common sayings, and what we really mean by them.


1. You say: “Time you went to bed. You’ve got school in the morning.”
You mean: “Time you went to bed. Queen’s Gambit, WandaVision and Line of Duty aren’t going to watch themselves.”

2. You say: “OK, I’ll think about it.”
You mean: “I’m going to just let that one drift and hope you forget about it.”

3. You say: “Oh wow, that’s great, hun.”
You mean: “My mind’s elsewhere, if I’m being honest. You’ve shown me seven unicorn pictures in the past five minutes and if I stopped to properly admire all of them, I’d never get dinner ready. Sorry, but that’s the brutal truth.”

4. You say: “Ask your dad/mum.”
You mean: “I have an opinion, but there’s a risk this’ll go wrong, so I don’t want to be the one to approve it.”

5. You say: “Look, we’re not going anywhere until you tidy your room!”
You mean: “I’m really hoping you’ll tidy your room, but it’s also in my best interests to get out of the house. I’m hoping you don’t notice that this leaves me with a lack of leverage.”

6. You say: “I’m just popping out to fix something with the car.”
You mean: “There’s nothing wrong with the car. I need to get away for 15 minutes.”

7. You say: “You’ve got five seconds to get here! 1… 2… 3… “
You mean: “Please fall for this obvious ruse again, because if you don’t get here in five seconds, I really don’t have any kind of forfeit lined up.”

8. You say: “Want to play on the iPad for a bit?”
You mean: “I know it’s wrong to encourage screen time, but this’ll give me that break I’m really craving.” 

9. You say: “Do you need a little nap? You look tired.”
You mean: “Please, please, please take a nap. I’m the one who’s tired.”

10. You say: “Because I said so, that’s why!”
You mean: “Curses. You caught me out. I don’t actually have a good reason for what I’ve just demanded, but I don’t need an argument right now.”


11. You say: “I was never allowed to do that when I was a kid.”
You mean: “I totally did this as a kid. All the time. I just never asked permission or got caught.”

12. You say: “Those clothes don’t fit anymore, you’ll have to wear something else or you’ll look a bit silly”.
You mean: “I’m worried that I’ll look a bit silly for not dressing you properly.”

13. You say: “Woah! That’s Amazing!”

You mean: “I have no idea who Captain Underpants is, or why he’s being attacked by a giant ‘socktopus’, but I’ll look all enthusiastic and interested in case it helps.”

14. You say: “Put that stick down. You could have someone’s eye out with it.”
You mean: “I know full well that there is an infinitesimal chance of you actually ‘having someone’s eye out” with that stick, but it’s easier to say this than enumerating all the much less gory and sensational reasons I don’t want you playing with a dirty twig.”

15. You say: “You’ve had enough screen time. Turn that off before your eyes go screwy.”
You mean: “I haven’t actually studied the peer-reviewed scientific literature to see if there’s a correlation between screen time and poor eyesight, but I’ll assume there is a connection because I want you to do something else.”

16. You say: “Eat your carrots… they’ll help you see in the dark.”
You mean: “Now, I’m pretty sure that there isn’t any peer-reviewed scientific literature to draw a connection between carrots and night vision, but I’m happy to tell a few fibs if it gets you eating veg.”

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Written by Matt Brown

Bachelor of Science specializing in Chemistry, Master of Research specializing in Biomolecular Sciences

Matt Brown picture

Matt BrownBachelor of Science specializing in Chemistry, Master of Research specializing in Biomolecular Sciences

With a Bachelor's degree in Chemistry and a Master's in Residency specializing in Biomolecular Sciences and roots in the Midlands, Matt has developed a passion for writing about London. As a former editor and prolific contributor to Londonist.com, he has authored several books exploring the city's hidden gems. In addition to his work, Matt enjoys spending time with his two preschool-aged children.

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