There is incredible power in language. This is evident in countless ways, such as the number of self-help books and leadership management training seminars on the topic.
But an area usually unassociated with positive speak is child rearing. Clinical psychologist are often faced with cases of unhappy or misbehaving children. There are diverse causes for such, but a common denominator is the language parents use when speaking to their child.
Parents often have the best intentions, but they unknowingly influence their children based on the language and tone that they use. It is therefore important that parents take extra care with the words they say around and to their kids. Take note though that negative behavior such as aggression or violence is rooted in many things. It is always best to seek the professional advice of a licensed clinician before subscribing to any technique. That being said, it is still helpful to take note of these tips.
”You’re so…”: Parents should be careful when they begin their sentence with this. The natural conclusion to this statement is a label which can either help or hurt the child. Labels are extremely powerful, especially among children who are easily influenced by their parents. Regardless of whether the statement is true or not, children will typically respond by becoming whatever label is given to them. Even seemingly harmless statements such as “you’re such a klutz” can be harmful in the long-run, as the child will always consider himself clumsy and have his confidence undermined.
”Don’t cry.”: It is natural to want to protect children. However, parents should also be wary of inhibiting natural emotions. Children can sometimes find it difficult to put into words what they truly feel. Crying is their way of voicing out their emotions. This statement should be immediately followed with asking how the parent can make the child feel better. Simply saying, “don’t cry” sometimes implies that the child’s feelings are not valid.
”Why can’t you be more like your sister/brother?”: It can seem helpful to compare so that the child has models of proper behavior. Unfortunately, most children could end up feeling inadequate and become frustrated. At worst, children can lash out. Instead, parents should encourage specific behaviors in children, according to their personalities.
The most important aspect to remember is that children constantly need validation and praise. This does not mean excessively complimenting the child. As with most adults, children know when something is said genuinely.