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7 Words and Actions to Avoid Around Your Kids


“Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative and don’t mess with mister in-between.” The average child hears 432 negative comments or words per day, versus 32 positive ones, so the lyrics to this old song are worth considering. In this era, we are surrounded by near-constant negativity: in the news, in schools, and online. Here are seven ways to eliminate some of the negative around our kids.


Knee-jerk “No”

I’m not proud to admit it, but I am guilty of the above: my knee-jerk response to my children’s requests was usually “no.” Practically before the question was even out of their mouths, I had decided my response. Ugh. Did I even listen to the question? After I gave it more thought, I would often change my knee-jerk “no,” but a better idea would be to really consider what children are asking before responding. You can still be firm about what you DON’T want them to do, but the words “no” and “don’t” can be spun by practicing “DO” commands and by finding opportunities to say “YES” … and we can all do more ENcouraging and less DIScouraging. 


The Food Trap

This is a tricky one for many reasons. Parents may struggle with body image and unintentionally pass along their eating habits and negative feelings about certain foods to their children. Studies show that labeling foods as “good” or “bad”, “healthy” or “unhealthy” can increase a child’s desire for these foods. Be aware of the framework you may be creating around food.


The Reward Trap

Rewards sound positive, but they usually do more harm than good. Using rewards as a bargaining chip for the desired behavior is a slippery slope to an attitude of entitlement. Many studies have shown that kids who are rewarded actually lose interest in the activity they’re being rewarded for – reading, practicing piano, doing their homework, etc. Let your older kids know that since they’re growing up, they don’t need sticker charts and other rewards anymore. Express confidence in their ability to cooperate without these treats and make sure they know the consequences they’ll face for negative behavior. Bottom line: children don’t need rewards to behave appropriately.


Fine Line

How often have we uttered the words “you’ll be fine” when our child was upset or crying? Of course, we mean it as reassurance that they will, in fact, be fine. But when we say “stop crying, you’ll be fine,” what we are actually doing is invalidating their feelings and making them feel like they are wrong for showing emotion. A crying child can be frustrating for parents, but next time try calmly asking “What’s the matter? Why are you crying?” Your child will then be more inclined to communicate her feelings and tell you the problem when it happens again.  


Honey do

“I do everything for you.” These words are often said as a way to highlight our actions so that our children will comply when we ask them to do something. But although it’s true that we do a lot for our children, constantly reminding them of it can make them feel like a burden, rather than as we intend it. Instead, try saying “We do things for you because we love you, so please do [ xyz ] for me.”


That’s great, but…

If you say “you did well but you could do better” you really have just negated the compliment altogether. A compliment followed by the word “but” is essentially invalid because the “but” will be all they hear and will make them feel like they have not really made you proud and didn’t do enough. Instead, try saying: “You did well and I am proud of you. I bet you’re going to keep getting better and better!” Celebrating small victories is a way to motivate children to constantly do well.

Because I said so

This one is a classic, along with “because I’m an adult and you’re a child,” and is most often used as a way to put an end to the discussion. The “my-way-or-the-highway” approach makes children feel like their opinions aren’t valid simply because they are young. Instead, explain why you feel the way you do by having a conversation about it so that they understand your position. It can be exhausting to explain your reasons, but it will be beneficial to your children if they know they have been heard and not dismissed outright.


by Jenny Blunier

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