Google+ Authentic Parenting: Changing the Words You Use To Describe your Child

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Changing the Words You Use To Describe your Child

I have written before about how I dislike labeling kids. Wether positive or negative, labels are not a very good thing. Yet the fact is, over time, we do 'label' our kids. We start holding beliefs about them. Some are positive, others are negative. As conscious parents, it is important to investigate these words that come to mind.

Adding words to character is a particularly tricky thing to do, as the words you use to describe your child may turn into labels and that can bring a whole set of fixed beliefs for your child.
Make sure all words you use are positive ones. Even for a character trait you may perceive as negative, there are positive words. Using these positive words will also change your mindset and will make the love flow more easily. 
You can use the words whenever you see a negative, but it's most important to name the inherently good things too, the things that don't annoy you.
With training, you'll be able to see the 'bad' traits emerge in 'good' situations, too.
  • Being energetic doesn't mean being aggressive.
  • You're very energetic! Look at how you just climbed that tree!
  • I see you're very determined. (Here the parent could see the trait as stubbornness, instead naming it 'determination' changes something from a negative to a positive)
I can highly recommend reading 'Raising Your Spirited Child' by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka if you want to learn more about this exercise. Another book that deals with this topic is Shefali Tsabary's 'The Conscious Parent'.

Both books offer the exercise of writing down everything you feel is negative about your child and then  investigating this list and trying to find positive words for the negative ones you have written down. This exercise springs out of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis of linguistic relativity, which states that language determines thought. With other words: the words you use to describe your child determine what you think of her. 
Personally, I think it's more of a cycle: what you think is how you talk and how you talk will influence your thought... But anyway you turn it, it's an interesting exercise and we will only grow by doing it and practicing to use positive words.

Another interesting point to consider in this, and why it's even more pertinent, is that the beliefs you hold about your child, the words you use, will become their ingrained belief system. If you frequently tell your child 'You never listen', your child will integrate that sentence. Later in life, your child may actually become a bad listener, because he's fulfilling the prophecy.

So to get you started: here's a handful of positive words you can use that can easily replace some negative ones that are often being used about kids:
energetic, fearless, persistent, passionate, careful, prudent, strong, inventive, curious, determined, straightforward, creative, innovative, proactive, gentle, strong willed, driven, reflective, cautious

You can see that these are all traits that are valued in adults, so it's time to start valuing them in your child!

What are some of the negative traits you see in your child? How could you turn them into positives?

Added to Tuesday Baby Link Up



  1. Hi. I love your post. It's a wonderful reminder that our words are intensely powerful. I am a high school guidance counselor by training and practice although I am home with my children now. I've witnessed firsthand the destruction negative words can have one one's self-esteem and ability to get through challenging life circumstances. Your post made me really think about how I respond to challenging moments that we all have as parents. I found your blog through I Thought I Knew Mama, and I'm so glad I did. I cannot wait to read more of your post and follow along. Thank you!

  2. Wonderful post! It makes me so sad to hear parents talking about their children in negative terms, often when their kids are right there. I think a good rule is to turn your words around and ask yourself if you would say something like that to a spouse or a friend. Everyone knows it's a bad idea for relationships to use phrases like "you always" or "you never" or to be constantly critical. Just because kids are young and might not always be able to stand up for themselves doesn't make that an excuse to treat them as lesser people! Thanks for linking up with the Tuesday Baby Link Up!


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