Recently I overheard the following conversation in a coffee shop:
“Tarquin, Mummy would really like it if you didn’t throw the salt shaker at her”.
Tarquin’s response to this? Throwing the salt shaker at his mother. Because Tarquin is two.
Now, there has always been debate around the things we should stop saying to our kids. And I’m the first to admit that often, my first instinct when I see a toddler about to stick a five cent piece in a power socket is to yell, and to yell loudly “NO!” I always thought this was okay and actually, quite a natural reaction when a child was about to harm themselves but apparently not.
Apparently the word ‘No’ has negative connotations.
In fact, someone I know was telling me recently that she will never willingly use the word ‘No’ when speaking to her children. When she has them in the future.
Okay. You let me know how that works out for you.
And this is probably not the only thing I’ve been doing wrong. According to research recently conducted, seemingly harmless word and phrases can apparently be quite damaging.
So here, according to Shelley Phillips via Lifehack.org, are words or phrases we should be eliminating from our vocabulary from now on in to encourage motivation and emotional connection between parents and their children:
1. “Good job!”
The biggest problem with this statement is that it’s often said repeatedly and for things a child hasn’t really put any effort into. This teaches children that anything is a “good job” when mom and dad say so (and only when mom and dad say so).
Instead try, “You really tried hard on that!” By focusing on a child’s effort, we’re teaching her that the effort is more important than the results. This teaches children to be more persistent when they’re attempting a difficult task and to see failure as just another step toward success.
Errmm, no, they didn’t “try hard”. Whatever it is they’ve just done well, they deserve to be told about. If I, as an adult, was told that ‘you tried’, I would immediately assume I’d failed.
I mean, put it this way, I feel like calling the Vatican to report a miracle every time one of my children flush the toilet after they go in there. I’m most definitely going to tell them they’ve done a ‘good job’ if they go the extra mile and change the empty toilet roll too. Hell, I’d consider a tickertape parade.
2. “Good boy (or girl)!”
This statement, while said with good intentions, actually has the opposite effect you’re hoping for. Most parents say this as a way to boost a child’s self-esteem. Unfortunately, it has quite a different effect. When children hear “good girl!” after performing a task you’ve asked them for, they assume that they’re only “good” because they’ve done what you’ve asked. That sets up a scenario in which children can become afraid of losing their status as a “good kid” and their motivation to cooperate becomes all about receiving the positive feedback they’re hoping for.
Instead, try “I appreciate it so much when you cooperate!”
If I started a sentence with “I appreciate it so much when you cooperate” to my 7 year old son, I’d lose him by ‘appreciate’. To be honest, it’s a pretty splendid moment when he selflessly shares or just sits quietly; I don’t see any harm in telling him that he’s been a good boy when I recognise this. If my child ‘assumes they are only good because they have done what I’ve asked” then they assume right. Just like when DON’T do as they are told, they are also told.
3. “What a beautiful picture!”
When we put our evaluations and judgments onto a child’s artwork, it actually robs them of the opportunity to judge and evaluate their own work.
Instead try, “I see red, blue and yellow! Can you tell me about your picture?”
Yeah, so look, this is my son’s interpretation of Monet’s Sunflowers.
I see Red! Blue and Yellow! I see a Penis!
Did I tell him it was a beautiful picture? Damn straight I did. Because quite simply, it is. It’s HIS interpretation of art. If anything is open to interpretation, it’s got to be art right? Did my husband and I have a chuckle when he wasn’t around? Of course we did. Seriously though, tell your kids their drawings are excellent. Because they most definitely always are.