Somewhere between the birth of your child and his or her first birthday, you are overtaken by so much sleep deprivation that you hit the point of no return. It is then that all the handbooks disappear to the back of the closet, you forget all your good intentions, and you start parenting on instinct. There is nothing wrong with this; we don't need to open a manual to know that children should be fed, dressed, and go places like the zoo, synagogue, and school. They should also listen to all your decisions and never complain.

"Because I am your mother!"The downside, however, is that you will find yourself channeling that most important person in your life: your mother. When operating on autopilot, there are certain comments that escape you, comments you swore you would never use with your own kids.

"Because I am your mother" is a rationale I always found particularly annoying. I use it several times each week. The reason is that it ends all arguments, which is irritating for my daughter and wonderful for me. There is, of course, the ever popular "if your friend jumps off a bridge…" and "when mommy is cold, everyone is cold, so put on your coat." That second one comes from my husband, who is equally good at mimicking his mother. We are both very fond of the "go ask your mother/father" combo. It means: "The risk for a wrong decision that we'll regret forever is particularly high right now, and I don't want to be responsible."

These well worn parenting phrases are everywhere. The other day I heard my daughter tell my son, "If you don't eat, you'll die." Lovely expression, and so true. It comes from my grandmother. Isn't it wonderful how platitudes bridge the generation gap? Someday she will use it on her own children. If she doesn't, I will.

The most popular and traditional parental nag is probably the "I told you so." It is timeless, and we've all heard it many times (and those of us that had too much fun during our freshman year in college heard it a little more than others). There is a slightly different version of this in my country, and it goes like this: "I would have told you so." That one comes with bonus miles. It means: "If only you would have asked my advice before you did this extremely stupid thing you did, I could have shared my wisdom and helped you avoid trouble, but you didn't. You chose to do this without checking with me, and then things went horribly wrong. You're dumb for what you did, and dumb for not asking me first."

Someday she will use it on her own children. If she doesn't, I will Besides the down-and-out nasty clichés, there are the ones that sound nice, but aren't. "I just tell you this because I love you," and "this hurts me more than it hurts you" come to mind. "What were you thinking?" is, I have to admit, a personal favorite. I don't use it because I actually expect any coherent answers from my children; it merely helps me express my frustrations. But that's what many of those comments are meant for, aren't they? We don't actually expect our children to listen; we are mostly talking to ourselves. Maybe one good lesson we can learn, the next time we hear ourselves mindlessly repeating any of the above, is to give a little more thought to what comes out of our mouths. I know I could. Words can help us go forward or backward; there is no real middle road. I, for one, am going to try to go for one whole week without using parenting clichés. I'll let you know how that works out.