Creative Child

6 Parenting Phrases to Reconsider

by Rebecca Eanes

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“You’re naughty.”
This is a judgement of character, not behavior. Young children see themselves through their parents’ eyes. If we tell them they are naughty, this is the seed that will be planted in their self-concept, and if this takes root, it becomes difficult to convince a child he or she is good/worthy. Instead of “you’re naughty,” separate the behavior from the child by saying, “your behavior is unacceptable and here’s what you can do instead.” Follow up with affirmations that you believe the child is a good person and that we all make mistakes from which we can learn.

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“Quit crying/suck it up.”
Stuffing down emotions is unhealthy. Even though it may be uncomfortable for us when our children cry, we need to be empathetic and allow them the space to do so. Just because their reason for crying may seem trivial to us, it doesn’t mean it is trivial. Sometimes I cry over things that would seem silly to others, but they matter to me. Instead of shutting down their tears, support them through their feelings and teach coping skills.

“Why can’t you be more like your brother/sister?”
This is a good phrase if you want to ignite sibling rivalry and resentment. Imagine hearing, “Why can’t you be more like Mike’s wife?” Ouch! Could any positive feelings or motivation possibly come from that? No way. And it doesn’t motivate children either. It’s best to leave comparisons out of it altogether and just state what you’d like to see happen. For example, instead of “Why can’t you be more like your sister? She does her homework without a hassle” try “I’d like you to get your homework done without a hassle.”

Now that you've assessed some of your parenting language, it might also be good to pause and reflect on negative phrases in your child's vocabulary. For more alternatives for language, try 50 alternatives to "good job."

Rebecca Eanes, is the founder of and creator of Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond. She is the bestselling author of 3 books. Her newest book,Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, is more than a parenting book, it's a guide to human connection. She has also written The Newbie's Guide to Positive Parentingand co-authored the book, Positive Parenting in Action: The How-To Guide to Putting Positive Parenting Principles in Action in Early ChildhoodShe is the grateful mother to 2 boys.


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