By Emily Roberts MA, LPC
Saying “I love you” and “great job” are phrases parents say all the time. Often parents are so busy and frustrated that they say these words, but the child does not hear them. Why? The negative and often critical phrases that they hear all day are more powerful. If you tell your child ” Your late again!” or ” Why can’t you do what I say the first time?”, they remember them, the negative charge decreases their feelings of accomplishment and self-esteem; comments like these stick with a child, and positive statements become obsolete, leading to low self worth. If you think about it they are faced with these comments from others all day too. Whether its a teacher “Timmy you really need to study harder” or a friend “My doll is prettier than your doll.” Kids are faced with an enormous amount of negative feedback on a daily basis.
Dr. John Gottman reports that most parents say 5:1 critical or negative comments to their children, shouldn’t it be the other way around? With generously using positive statements a child’s self esteem is boosted. Self-esteem is the beliefs or feelings that we have about ourselves, our self perceptions. Self-esteem influences our attitudes, relationships, behaviors, and emotions. Self-esteem can also be defined as the combination of feeling of being loved. A child who is happy and has been recognized with achievements, if not loved still feels internally empty.
Low self-esteem is linked to a variety of behavioral and mental health problems, that your child can develop now, or later in life. If I had a dollar for every young adult who told me,” My parents never told me they were proud of me, maybe they said it but they said a lot of things that made me believe otherwise” I would be a very wealthy woman. It is never to late to help your child develop a healthy self-esteem. Here are some tips to assist you and your child.
- A good rule of thumb: praise your child on the process rather than just the accomplishment. So “Great effort on that homework kiddo” instead of just “thanks for finishing your homework”. This lets him know that you notice how hard he is working.
- Use phrases that can be generic but add your own unique twist. Rather than just “Super job!” try “Super Job on cleaning your room, it looks great!” Adding what the praise is for helps a child feel accomplished.
- Here are some phrases to get you started: Nice try! That really helped me! Way to go! That was awesome! I am proud of your effort! Keep up the good work! I am so proud of you! You made my day! You are such a hard worker! Thank you! Wow! You are so special! Well done! Fantastic! Great job! Super Job! You’ve got it! Beautiful job! You are unstoppable! What a good idea! Great job following directions! You are such a good listener! Good for you! Keep it up! You are unique! You are so creative! You are so precious! You’re a winner! I like when you do that! Great try! Fantastic Job! Terrific! You’re important! You’re Phenomenal! You’re such a trooper! Super work! You’re fun! Great job sharing! You are caring! What an imagination! Great effort! You make me happy! I trust you! Outstanding behavior! You played nicely! You are a good friend! I respect you! Thank you for being respectful! You mean the world to me! You make me laugh! You are wonderful! You’re a joy! Keep up the good work! Bravo! Super! You’re the best! You made my day! That was a good try! I love you
Remember try and counter any negative or critical statement with a positive statement 5:1 positives versus 5:1 negatives, it helps create a child, and eventually an adult, who feels good about themselves.
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