Family Life

Negative Words and Your Children

No! Stupid. Stop! Dumb. It’s possible that you have either uttered these under your breath, or to keep your child from doing something that could hurt him, shouted out a quick, “No!,” to stop him in his tracks. However, these words can have long- and short-term effects on him if they are heard often.

Using negative words can distress and make an impression on your child. While you may not be directing the words toward your child every time, he is still exposed and listening to them. When you are aware of your language, you will find there are alternative, and positive, words you can use instead. 

“The manner in which we communicate and use language with our child can, and most often will, have a direct impact on how he views the world around him, as well as himself both in childhood and adulthood,” says Kelli L. Ewing, licensed professional counselor. You will be pleasantly surprised to see that when you make a point to change your approach to situations and use positive words, your child will listen better and the benefits of your positive reaction will shine.

Carefully picking your words can help teach your child his worth. 
“Love and acceptance through words is the first and most important exercise that we must utilize as adults with our child so he may come to view himself as important and unique,” says Ewing. Self-esteem and confidence can be developed this way which will help to make him a stronger person as he navigates through his life. 

“Children may judge themselves relentlessly in comparison to other children around them,” says Ewing. If you have more than one child under your roof, you want to be sure that you view them as individuals. What is one child’s strength may be another’s weakness, and that is okay.

“Examples of negative words or language are: ‘Your brother would have made an A on that test, not a B’ and ‘Bad things will happen to you if you make mistakes’,” says Ewing.

Focus on praise. 
“An example of positive words or language is, ‘I watched you study so hard for your spelling test. It is so important to put forth that kind of effort in your schoolwork, and I am very proud of you,’” says Ewing. Sometimes one sibling may perform better in school or score more points in a basketball game and cause one child’s feelings to be damaged. You want to correct your child if he becomes angry, and use constructive criticism. 

Introduce ways to deal with stressful situations so your child is able to solve problems faster and without feeling poorly. Similarly, if you are stressed as a parent, regroup. “Step outside a while and try to change your environment temporarily so that you can process what is currently happening to cause such stress,” says Ewing. There are many reasons a parent may feel overwhelmed. “Are the kids being especially rowdy today or did that terrible work meeting send you home in a bad mood?” shares Ewing. We often let these negative words fumble out when we are stressed. Taking a step back allows us to calm down before responding.

Every relationship comes along with occasional disagreements. 
Nobody is perfect, and you may have found yourself arguing or using bad language in front of your child. Remember that your child is always watching and listening even if you do not realize it, and you have the power to be a positive role model. “If we have used negative language in the presence of our kid, hopefully, we can take the time to let our kid know later that day that perhaps we said or did something that was not fair or appropriate for the situation at hand,” says Ewing.

Find teachable moments and make an effort to give praise. 
“If you see your young child help his younger sibling go down the stairs, point out what an awesome and protective sibling he is,” says Ewing. Recognizing his acts of kindness will encourage your child to do more nice gestures just because. Helping someone in need not only makes that person feel good, but it also makes the person who is doing the helping feel good, too. “If you witness your child jump before one of his elders to hold a door open, let him know how much you love his kind heart and compassion for others,” says Ewing. When your child feels good and sees you act warmly towards him, he is more than likely to copy your behavior towards others. 

Let your child know you love him. 
You may already be saying the words, “I love you,” but there are many other ways to reinforce the same message. “You can say, ‘You are the most important thing to us,’ ‘You came into our lives for a very special reason’, ‘There is no other child who has your special heart and talents,’ or, ‘You were made to be unique, and you are,’” says Ewing.

Take advantage of opportunities to say those positive things because actions speak louder than words. This means being present in your child’s day-to-day life and serving as a cheerleader, whether he is involved at a sporting event or tapping his heels and toes at a recital. Set aside time that is just about the two of you. This means planning something that you both enjoy whether it is playing a board game at home, going on a bike ride in the park, or attending a community event together.

The American Academy of Pediatrics stresses that praise is an important parenting tool, and it helps kids know what behaviors you like and want them to continue doing. They encourage you to: be immediate; when you see your child doing something you like, let him know; use hugs and kisses to show you like what your child is doing; and praise the process and not just the end product. If you emphasize how much you appreciate your child trying, he will keep at a task until he reaches the goal. When you use positive words and language around him, your child will not only be happier, but he will also feel proud of his accomplishments and that is what everyone should want to achieve as a Baton Rouge parent. ■

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