Creative Child

The Message Behind “Be Good” and What to Say Instead

by Rebecca Eanes

I hear parents all the time pleading with and warning their children to “be good.” This common phrase has escaped my lips a few times, too. There are a couple of reasons why I’ve decided to drop this phrase for good.


“Be Good” is Too Vague

Children aren’t mind readers. It’s much more helpful to give them specific instructions than to assume they know exactly what we mean by “be good.” It’s a very abstract concept for children, even if we think they should know what behavior we expect.

Instead of saying “be good,” try:

“When you’re at grandma’s, I want you to pick up your toys when you’re finished playing and listen when she asks you to do something.” 


“At the store, you may help me push the cart or walk beside it. You may not run in the aisles or ask for a toy today.”

“In the movie theater, be quiet while the movie is playing and don’t put your feet on the seats.”

Alternatives to "Be good" on page 2...

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