Parental Proverbs and Phrases

Welcome to Amaze-ing Words Wednesday, where we creep through the English language labyrinth with a flashlight and a good dose of curiosity. Today, however, we might be hearing in our brains such admonitions as “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” or “Look where you’re going, not where you’ve been.”

Whatever the saying, you probably have some proverb stuck your head that your parents planted there by repetition in your childhood. Why not use clever language to instruct your kids? My parents passed on to me the following:

A thing worth doing is worth doing well. This was a nice way for my father to say, “Get your chore done, and do it right.” Also, it reminded us to give it our best with schoolwork, extracurricular activities, and service.

Don’t upset the applecart. Never mind that the image of a street vendor selling fruit was not in this city girl’s mental Pinterest, my mother threw out that gem to remind us not to pick fights or overreact.

Come into port with all of your flags flying. No, we were not boat people. However, growing up in Corpus Chisti, Texas along the Gulf Coast, I saw plenty of boats. My father used this proverb to let us know how important it was to follow something through to the end. It was often pulled out after Spring Break when the desire of most teenagers is to let their flag sag and cross the end-of-school-year finish line in a ragged heap.

Shake a leg. Not really a proverb exactly, but I cannot count the number of times my mother suggested we be on time (or just a few minutes later instead of embarrassingly late) by using this phrase. It simply means to hurry up already!

Don’t toot your own horn. “Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way.” Yet my father would remind us not to brag about ourselves. Let someone else give a compliment and thank them for it. But let your actions speak for themselves; no need to boast.

I find myself adopting my own parental sayings for my children. I suppose it’s a habit all of us parents have. Here are a few I’ve tried.

When you win, celebrate; when you lose, congratulate. You’ll find that I like rhyming sayings. I came up with this one for my son who started playing t-ball at 4 1/2 years old (he’d been begging to play for several months already). Learning good sportsmanship is a primary goal of athletic endeavors with children. This was a way for him to remember how to behave when things do and don’t go your way in a game.

Commentary unnecessary. I use this phrase a lot! When you have more than one child, at some point you will give instructions to one and the other will want to add their own commentary to what you’re saying. It can be as simple as “Oh yeah, what Mom said!” or “He also hasn’t finished his math homework and played video games for an hour.” Whatever the issue, I try to let the non-instructed child know that I’m the parent and I’ve got it covered. Thus, “commentary unnecessary.” At this point, however, I just say, “Commentary–” and my children finish, “unnecessary.”

This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no foolin’ around. Well, I did try this one out. It seemed perfect for those times when we need to get serious about cleaning, getting ready, eating, etc., but instead my children are messing around and wasting time. As it turned out, Talking Heads lyrics were a little wasted on munchkins born post-1990. It’s fallen by the wayside. *sigh*

I’m wondering what I should add to my repertoire and what other parental proverbs and phrases are being used out there. So whatcha got? What parental sayings do you recall from your childhood? What sayings have you repeated with your children?

And to leave you with the mother of all parental proverbs and phrases, here is the fabulous comedian Anita Renfroe with The Mom Song, to the tune of the William Tell Overture:

By the way, I’m guest posting today over at Nicole Basaraba’s blog as part of her series on genre. I’m taking a look at Young Adult (YA) Fiction.