The words parents use, both positive and negative, can impact children in almost every aspect of their lives. Unfortunately, as a society we are quicker to say what’s wrong instead of what’s right. Without meaning to, we often do this to our children. Sometimes we say things to them because we want to protect them, we think were helping them or teaching them a lesson or sometimes were just angry.
Common negative phrases can really hurt and destroy self-esteem, even it that’s not the intention. Here are some examples:
- You’re going to screw it up, let me do it
- Can’t you do anything right?
- You’re always messing up
- What’s the matter with you?
- Why can’t you be more like your brother or sister?
- Your so stupid
- If you don’t come I’ll leave you here
- You’re such a klutz
- I told you so
- What’s wrong with you?
- At the rate you’re going you’ll never amount to anything
- You’re impossible
- What a slob
- You never think of anyone but yourself
- How stupid can you get?
Children often evaluate themselves based on the opinions their parents have of them. When we use harsh words we plant the seeds of doubt in their developing minds. The message they can get is “you’re incompetent and unloveable, and who you are isn’t enough.”
They make children feel powerless, inadequate and unimportant.
How can you turn criticism into constructive non-hurtful statements?
You can focus on specific misbehavior. Remember: children aren’t bad – their behavior is.
Focus on Misbehavior
|"You're a slob"||"This mess really bothers me please clean it up"|
|"You're so selfish"||"I hate it when you don't call and tell me where you are"|
|"What are you, stupid? You know your report is due tomorrow"||"I feel frustrated when you don't plan your time better. I'd like you to make school work your priority"|
Helpful hint: use “I” followed by your reaction. When you use “You” followed by a noun or adjective, you are usually passing judgment.
Positive comments build self-esteem and give children the message that they are capable, lovable and that they can do anything they set their mind to. Positive statements help children to succeed. Here are a few examples:
- I’m so proud of you
- I love you
- You are special
- You do that so well
- You’re so good in math, drawing, spelling (whatever fits)
- You tried so hard
- I love you
- That was so nice how you also thought of your brother, sister, friend
- You’re very talented
- You make me smile
- G-d gave me a gift when he gave me you
- I love you!
How can we go about praising more and criticizing less?
Try to be specific:
- I really appreciate the way you helped me put away the groceries
- I like the way you put away your clothes without me asking
- I was touched by the card you made for me
- I appreciate when you water the plants, or help with the dishes
- You learned multiplication – how wonderful!
- You read that whole book – that’s terrific!
- The way you shared with your brother, sister was great
- You stacked everfything so neatly
- I’m so proud of the way you: helped your sister, cleaned your room, listened, etc
If we acknowledge the positive things they do instead of expect them they will feel proud and pleased with themselves and will continue to do positive things.
IMPORTANT: if you feel that you haven’t been focusing on the positive and you would like to change that let your child know. Otherwise though it will still feel good, they will not understand where it is cooming from and may feel tricked. Tell them honestly. An example that may help you is:
“I’ve been thinking about how I don’t tell you often enough, all the things you do right. I love you very much and I’m often proud of you and I’m not sure that you always know that, so I’m going to try to let you know”
It may feel silly at first, but believe me, every positive thing you say to your child will make them grow big and strong. Positive words will make them feel happy, secure, loved and so many other wonderful things. It will help them say no to drugs and to succeed in the challenging world in which we live. Just like water and sun helps a tree to grow strong and blossom and withstand storms.
Six Keys to Using Encouragement to Build High Self-Esteem
- Build on your child’s strengths by catching them doing something right
- Express appreciation when your child is cooperative and helpful
- Give positive support for each step along the way to achieving a goal or new behavior
- Show confidence
- Nurture success
- Tell your child you love them at least twice a day, even if they’ve been bad.
Children Learn What They Live by Dorothy L. Nolte
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to be shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn what envy is.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with tolerance, they learn to be patient.
If children live with encouragement, they learn to be confident.
If children live with praise, they learn to appreciate.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to find love in the world.
If children live with recognition, they learn to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn to be generous.
If children live with honesty and fairness, they learn what truth and justice are.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and those around them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn that the world is a nice place in which to live.
If children live with serenity, they learn to have a peace of mind.
With what are your children living?