First of all, yes, I know it’s Tuesday. I worked yesterday and it kind of threw me off but this is a post I’ve been wanting to write for a while.
Secondly this post might confuse the way Americans talk to children. People often comment that we talk to our son differently and in a Montessori classroom you’ll find much different verbage than other places. You’ll find speaking with your child in these ways takes and adjustment but it’s going to make for a much happier child and easier home in the long run.
Here is my list of things people need to stop saying to their kids:
- “Good boy/girl” and “good job”– Your child is not a dog, please don’t talk to them like one. When “good boy/girl” is used children often start to worry that they are “bad” when they don’t hear that phrase and can have an inflated sense or ego. Plus there really is no point in praising your child for everything they do. These words become meaningless and silly after a time (in addition to the dog thing…) Your child will enjoy your smile, enthusiasm and a hug much more than hollow words when they do something they are excited about. Try “wow” “how exciting” “I can tell you are proud” “I can see you worked hard on that!”
- “No”- Try to phrase things positively as much as possible and aim for redirection. For example: Say your toddler wants to help you “organize” your bookshelf. You could say “Please walk away from the bookshelf and find something else to play with” or “I know you want to help Mommy can you please go work with your books instead?” The word “no” should be saved for situations in which the child is in danger such as grabbing the stove or running out in the street. Try “you may do…” “lets do…” “can you go find… instead of that”
- “Don’t” “Can’t” “Won’t”- Again VERY negative words which can often make a child feel lousy. Try using the words “walk away” “find something else” “let’s do that together” “lets try this” “lets see what happens” For example: Say your child is in the bath and wants to dump water all over the floor. Instead of saying “No, don’t do that” try “Let’s see what happens when we dump the water onto your wash cloth in the tub.” This helps children understand what they are and are not allowed to do and helps satisfy their curiosity. REMEMBER- your child is not TRYING to make you crazy they are learning about how the world works
- “You’re so smart”- Like the “good boy/girl” this can cause self esteem issues and really isn’t a necessary phrase. Using words like this when a child gets older and has a subject they are struggling with can make the child believe they are stupid and dumb. Instead try “wow, I can see you’re really paying attention” or “I like how well you are listening and trying to learn.” This teaches the child that they are responsible for their learning and education and that it isn’t going to happen instantly.
- Baby talk past the baby stage- Baby talk is great for your bitty baby but once your child gets older start talking to them with full sentences and phrases. My two year old started talking about 10 months ago and has an amazing vocabulary- I think this is because I talk to him the same way I talk to anyone else. EXCEPTION– when your child is nearing or mid-meltdown revert to “caveman” speak like Happiest Toddler on the Block suggests. Using brief one or two word phrases during this time will help calm your child and get through to them much faster than a lot of words will.
- Using the incorrect names for body parts- Please call their private parts the right names. Using cute little nicknames can make them feel ashamed or embarrassed
- “But”- This is a dangerous word. ESPECIALLY when followed by “I love you”. Use the above strategies to phrase things positively. The word but negates anything that came before it and can make a child (or anyone else) feel awful. Example: Your child wants your attention and you are trying to work from home. Instead of “I love you but mommy needs to get some work done” try “Mommy has just a few more minutes of work left to do. I will come help you find something to play with until I’m done” followed by a kiss and “I love you” or replace the word “but” with “and”. This was the hardest word for me to get rid of- often you can replace the word “but” with “and”- it will really challenge how you think about your words.
- Illogical consequences- Taking away a toy because your child didn’t put on their shoes makes no sense. Not allowing to let your child walk from the car to the store because they wouldn’t put on shoes makes a lot more sense. When trying to “discipline” your child stop thinking of discipline as a punishment and think of it as allowing your child to understand what naturally will happen as a result of their choices (being mindful of age appropriate understanding)
Use POSITIVE reinforcement, positive phrasing and encourage the child when they are doing something right. Remember that most of the things kids, ESPECIALLY, toddlers do that we perceive as “naughty” are actually just the child learning about the world, boundaries and their own bodies.
I hope this helps you talk to your children in a way that they will understand and can help to create a more peaceful, loving home. Feel free to ask if you have other questions!