Creative Child

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

by Rebecca Eanes


“Be good…because usually you’re not.”

I wonder if this isn’t the underlying message that children pick up on when this phrase is overused. I always try to put myself in my child’s shoes. I think hearing “be good” all the time would make me feel like perhaps my parent doesn’t think I’m a good person. If I was, I wouldn’t need the constant reminder, right?

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What if my husband told me to “be good today” before he left for work? How would that make me feel? What is the message I would get from it?

I believe one of the most important things we can do for our children is to believe in them, and show our faith in their goodness, abilities, and positive intentions. Here is a huge lesson I’ve learned - When children feel good, they will be good, and knowing that we believe the best of them is one way to build their self-esteem and help them feel good. 

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Other ways to help children feel good is to fill their love tanks by spending quality time with them each day, to validate their feelings and assure they feel like valued members of our families, and to build their confidence and competence by allowing them to make choices and giving them opportunities to master various skills.

I realize that “be good” rolls off the tongue as easily as “eat your veggies,” but perhaps it’s time to retire the phrase in favor of more helpful and positive language.

What do you think? Do you say “be good” often? Does it yield positive results?


Rebecca Eanes is the bestselling author of multiple books including Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, The Positive Parenting Workbook, and The Gift of a Happy Mother. She is the grateful mom of two boys. 


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