Parenting Tips
Negative Language Harms Children – How Can We Improve Our Communication With Children?

Negative Language Harms Children – How Can We Improve Our Communication With Children?

Negative language has an influence on children; it causes them to be perplexed and disheartened as if they can’t accomplish anything properly. What is the solution? To achieve collaboration and maintain a pleasant connection, use positive words.

Negative language has been studied to see how it affects children, including how much confusion it causes, the internal resistance it causes, and how repeated negative language makes children feel discouraged as if they’re always doing something wrong or “being bad.”

Negative language is difficult for childrens to comprehend because they do not grasp what you want them to quit doing and what you want them to do instead.

It’s also depressing to constantly be told “no,” “stop,” or “don’t,” and it may make kids feel that there’s no purpose in trying to do the right thing.

What is the solution? Make positive statements.

In a compassionate manner, use positive words to teach children what you want them to quit doing and what you want them to do instead. Your expectations of their behaviour are quite clear.

When you give more attention to your replies, you provide clear direction to children without confusing them or making them feel awful about themselves.

When we use negative language, we are inviting power conflicts, back-talk, tantrums, and our children’s potential refusal to listen and ignore us.

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Confusing Language You Might Be Using

Certain phrases might be perplexing for children since they do not express what you want them to accomplish.

For instance, asking your child to “Stop” does not provide clear instructions other than allowing the child to figure out what they should and shouldn’t be doing on their own. Because little children, such as toddlers and preschoolers, lack this level of reasoning, asking them to stop is meaningless because they can understand what you want them to “stop” doing merely by hearing the word “stop.”

It all boils down to being clear about what we want our children to refrain from doing and what we want them to do instead.

This clears up any ambiguity or grey area in your childrens mind regarding what they’re doing incorrectly and what you want them to do instead.

Instead of saying “stop” or “no,” say anything like this:

  • We don’t toss sand, oh no. Instead, we’ll scoop it up using our shovel.
  • Our hands aren’t meant for hitting; we can put them in our pockets or clap them if we think they’re about to hit.
  • Let’s take a walk inside; if we run, we could get harmed.
  • Please bounce the ball outside rather than inside the home.

Without using negative language, you can remove the guesswork and offer your child a clear guidance of what they should be doing.

Positive Language You Can Use Instead

Using two pieces of paper and a black sharpie, write a list of terms and phrases that should be prohibited in your home.

On the list are the following negative words and phrases:

Stop
No
Don’t
Knock It Off
Don’t do That
Stop It
Leave _ Alone
Cut It Out
Why Aren’t You Listening
Don’t Run
Don’t Hit
Stop Jumping on the Couch

Put alternatives to these bad words and positive phrases to use instead on the other sheet of paper. Tape the pieces of paper together on the kitchen cabinet or the fridge.

Positive Phrases You Can Use Instead

  • Stop running  –>  Please walk
  • No jumping on the couch  –> Please sit on your bottom on the couch
  • Don’t cut your hair  –> Scissors are for cutting paper
  • Don’t touch your sister  –> Do keep your hands to ourselves
  • Don’t take her toys  –> Can you please find something else to play with until she’s done?
  • Stop yelling  –> Please use your inside voice
  • No throwing balls in the house  –> You can take the ball outside to play if you’d like
  • Stop Whining  –> Please use your words so I can hear you
  • No hitting  –> Please use gentle hands
  • Don’t even think about running, I’m watching you!  –> I’m so glad to see you remembering to walk safely down the hall
  • Don’t climb on the table  –> Please keep your feet on the floor
  • Stop throwing sand  –> Would you like to fill this bucket with sand?

Redicrect

Give your children a clear and positive alternative while speaking with them about their behaviour and giving them instructions on what you’d like them to do instead, such as:

The game could be played outside.
Take the ball outdoors if possible.
You may play with each other softly. Finding a method to say “yes” can go a long way. Instead of responding, “No, you can’t have a cupcake right now,” adding, “After dinner, you can have a treat,” is much easier to swallow. The message is distinct, yet the result is the same.

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What You Should Do Next:

1. Subscribe To My Parenting Newsletter

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3. Sign Up For A 7 Step Positive Parenting Course

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  • Reduce backtalk by HALF! It’s simple once you know the secrets of these two ‘buckets.’
  • Say goodbye to punishments that DON’T work. There’s a 5-step formula that works WAYYY better than time-outs.
  • Feel amazing, confident, and empowered as a parent, every day. I NEVER go to bed feeling guilty anymore! (Okay, well maybe sometimes…’ mom guilt’ is still a thing.)
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References

  • The Evolutionary Layers Of The Human Brain
  • Pavlov’s Dogs. By Saul McLeod
  • The “triune brain” is the hypothesis of neurologist Paul MacLean. By Fragua Neiva
  • Does stress damage the brain? By Bremner JD.
  • Managing Stress: Principles and Strategies for Health and Wellbeing by Brian Luke Seaward
  • Fear conditioning, synaptic plasticity and the amygdala: implications for posttraumatic stress disorder by Amy L. Mahan and Kerry J. Ressler
  • Limbic system – Emotional Experience by Srdjan D. Antic, M.D
  • http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/fam/17/4/598/
  • The Role of the Family Context in the Development of Emotion Regulation. By Amanda Sheffield Morris, Jennifer S. Silk, Laurence Steinberg, Sonya S. Myers, Lara Rachel Robinson
  • Children’s misbehaviors and parental discipline strategies in abusive and nonabusive families. By By Trickett, Penelope K.,Kuczynski, Leon
  • Childhood maltreatment is associated with altered fear circuitry and increased internalizing symptoms by late adolescence. By Ryan J. Herringa, Rasmus M. Birn, Paula L. Ruttle, Cory A. Burghy, Diane E. Stodola, Richard J. Davidson, and Marilyn J. Essex
  • Fear conditioning, synaptic plasticity and the amygdala: implications for posttraumatic stress disorder. By Amy L. Mahan, Kerry J. Ressler
  • The Role of the Family Context in the Development of Emotion Regulation. By Amanda Sheffield Morris, Oklahoma State University, Jennifer S. Silk, University of Pittsburgh, Laurence Steinberg, Temple University, Sonya S. Myers and Lara Rachel Robinson, University of New Orleans
  • The Relation between Mothers’ Hostile Attribution Tendencies and Children’s Externalizing Behavior Problems: The Mediating Role of Mothers’ Harsh Discipline Practices. By Nix RL, Pinderhughes EE, Dodge KA, Bates JE, Pettit GS, McFadyen-Ketchum SA.
  • Parental Reactions to Children’s Negative Emotions: Longitudinal Relations to Quality of Children’s Social Functioning. By Nancy Eisenberg, Richard A. Fabes, Stephanie A. Shepard, Ivanna K. Guthrie, Bridget C. Murphy and Mark Reiser
  • The Child’s Behavioral Pattern as a Determinant of Maternal Punitiveness. By Raymond K. Mulhern, Jr. and Richard H. Passman http://www.jstor.org/stable/1128948?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
  • The Contributions of Ineffective Discipline and Parental Hostile Attributions of Child Misbehavior to the Development of Conduct Problems at Home and School. By Snyder J, Cramer A, Afrank J, Patterson GR.
  • Immediate and Sustained Effects of Parenting on Physical Aggression in Canadian Children Aged 6 Years and Younger. By Benzies, Karen, Keown, Leslie-Anne, Magill-Evans, Joyce
  • Slapping and spanking in childhood and its association with lifetime prevalence of psychiatric disorders in a general population sample. By MacMillan HL, Boyle MH, Wong MY, Duku EK, Fleming JE, Walsh CA.
  • Friendship as a moderating factor in the pathway between early harsh home environment and later victimization in the peer group. By Schwartz, D., Dodge, K. A., Pettit, G. S., Bates, J. E., & The Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group. (2000)
  • Parenting Practices and Child Disruptive Behavior Problems in Early Elementary School by Elizabeth A. Stormshak, Karen L. Bierman, […], and Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group
  • There is no convincing evidence for operant or classical conditioning in adult humans. By Brewer, William F., Weimer, Walter B. and Palermo, David S.
  • The Mirror Neuron System and Observational Learning: Implications for the Effectiveness of Dynamic Visualizations. By Tamara van Gog, Fred Paas, Nadine Marcus, Paul Ayres and John Sweller
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  • Effective discipline for children. Paediatr Child Health. 2004 Jan; 9(1): 37–41.
  • Does Rejection Hurt? An fMRI Study of Social Exclusion. By Naomi I. Eisenberger, Matthew D. Lieberman, Kipling D. Williams, 2003
  • You Said WHAT About Time-Outs?! By Dan Siegel, 2014

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