As parents, our words have the power to shape our children’s thinking and thus shape how they behave and who they become. Children are watching and learning from every move we make – our language included. Using negative language can cause children to think less of themselves and what they are capable of. In order to promote children’s self-worth and confidence, here are five ways to switch to positive language.
1. Change Orders to Encouragement & Offer Solutions
Telling kids to stop doing something doesn’t offer them a solution to their behavior, which can be discouraging and confusing. Instead of commanding, turn orders around into a suggestion or polite request. That way, the child can take ownership of their actions and find healthy, acceptable alternatives to their actions.
Example: Instead of saying “Don’t run!” or “Leave your sister alone,” try saying, “Walk, please,” and, “How about we come over here and play?”
2. Be a “Yes” Mommy and Daddy
When we hear the word “no” all the time, we tend to train our brains into believing that asking questions for what we want or what we want to know is insignificant. Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to agree to every one of your child’s whims. If your child asks you a question and you want to tell them “no,” find a different way to answer that uses a form of “yes” or using the “If/When… Then” strategy.
Example: When playtime is over and your child tells you, “I want to keep playing,” respond by telling them, “IF you come and eat dinner now, THEN we can play more tomorrow!”
3. Stop Being Judgmental
When we are always being told not to do something or that we’re not doing something right, we can grow into feeling as if we can never do anything right. When you reprimand your child using the word “you,” it comes off as accusing and makes our child feel inferior. Try switching out the accusing “you” for “we” or “I.”
Example: Instead of yelling about a messy room, try saying, “We should clean up our room so that we can have sweet dreams,” or, “I would love to see this room cleaned up for sleep time!” (Kids have a complex for wanting to please us!)
4. Provide Incentives over Punishments
Rather than threatening punishments for bad behavior, try offering rewards for good behavior! This tip might come off as a bit of a persuasion tactic and make you feel like a bit of a schemer, but it allows our child to have a focus on the positive and look forward to something instead of living in a negative mindset and feeling like they’re losing something.
Example: Try saying, “The more times your room is clean, the more time we will have to go to the park this weekend,” rather than, “Clean your room or else I will take away all of your toys!”
5. Always Practice Manners
Manners go a long way and help in developing the character and integrity of our children. Stick with the basics and make a point not to take any action without them. This will drill manners in as an automatic habit. “Please” and “thank you” should always be said from your child for any reason at all. Also, model that same behavior for your child and always be saying it as well.
Example: Use classic prompting such as, “What do we say?” to remind your children to use “please” and “thank you” in the appropriate situations.
There are many strategies for improving how we talk and communicate with our children. If we make an effort to take baby steps towards more positive language, the deeper rooted impact that occurs will teach them more than rules and harsh punishment will ever teach.
Learn More About the Impact of Negative Language on Children:
- This is How Negative Language Impacts Children and Here’s How to Make It Better by Parenting from the Heart
- Careful Choice of Words Protects Self-Esteem by Parenting Exchange
- How Do Negative Comments Affect a Child’s Behavior? by The Bump