Our words really do matter! Post #1

I’m starting a series about using positivity when working with children. Children need to hear positive praise. This will reinforce their good behaviors. We need to avoid using negative and belittling words with children. Doing this makes them feel bad and worthless. This could send them down the wrong path in life. The more positive reinforcement children are given, the more they will display the behaviors we want to see. They will succeed in school and at home, (and hopefully in their lives too!) Think before you speak. “Will what I’m about to say help or hinder the child?” Adults need to help children build up their self-esteem. One important way we can do this is by staying positive as possible with what we say to them, and in their presence. Kids are listening more often than we think or realize! Let’s dive in here to my first post in this series.

 Positive reinforcement…

Our words really do matter! 

Today I’d like to talk about positive reinforcement, as I believe it plays an important role in a child’s development, future character, and self-esteem. What we say really does matter. Once we speak something negative, it’s hard to take back what was said. So we need to use our words carefully. This is true for what we say to anyone, but especially to young children. They internalize what they hear adults and their peers say to them. If a boy is told everyday that he is bad, it won’t be long until he believes it, and will start to act out. His “bad” behaviors were reinforced with negative input. He may start to feel bad about himself and will have a hard time socially with other children. This child could be headed down the wrong path in life, all because of the words spoken to him on a daily basis. He might have done some bad things, but that doesn’t make him “bad”. He made some bad choices. Let’s work on helping kids make good choices and praising them when they do! Kids are like an empty white canvas- the brush and color we paint them with will define the outcome of their behavior.

Let me explain what positive reinforcement is. Positive reinforcement is when you give praise for a desired behavior. For example, if your child picks up his/her toys, you might say: “Wow you picked up all your toys after you were done playing, I’m so proud of you!” Next time your child plays, he/she may think back to your words and will want to do the right thing and pick up again because he/she has associated picking up toys as a positive experience. 

It takes 5 positive comments to erase 1 negative comment.

We want to focus on the positive. It might feel weird or kind of silly to keep giving a child so much praise everyday, but it really does work and it is the right thing to do. It helps children develop good self-esteem and self-worth. It will also help them to interact more positively with their peers and the adults in their lives. How many times have you been told something negative, and it remains in your mind all day? It’s the same for children. I know sometimes it’s difficult when we are caught up in the moment. Kids can do some challenging things! Our first instinct might be to shout and use some words we will later regret. Parents and teachers, we’ve all been there, am I right? But how we respond is so important. If your child or student spills some milk, it might be tempting to say, “Now look at this mess you made! That was so stupid!” What do you think that child took away from the input you just gave? “I’m messy and stupid.” Is that what we want our children to think about themselves? Of course not! In a situation like this, first take a deep breath, so you’re feeling more calm, and say something like, “Let’s get a paper towel and you can help clean this up. I know you didn’t mean to make a mess.” Now of course, if you think that your child did it on purpose to get a rise out of you, you could provide a consequence. In that situation, you might say, “I see that you spilled your milk on purpose. I’m sad that you made a bad choice. After dinner you will not be able to watch TV. I hope you make a better choice next time.” Then you must stick with the consequence! Follow through is vital! If you give in and let the child watch TV anyway, he/she will not take your consequences seriously. Staying calm is vital too. When children see adults out of control, it may make them feel scared and out of control as well. They may respond by making another bad choice if the adult starts losing control. (More on this in my next post, stay tuned!)   

It’s important to be specific about the behavior that the child did that pleased you. “Good job” or “You’re smart” aren’t always enough. They need to know the reason for the good job or why you think they’re smart. When we are less specific, they forget why we gave them praise. That might make it more difficult for them to really value what you’re saying to them. Kids are very observant- they might not always be able to express themselves, but we should always communicate with them the “why”. Slowly they will start to get it.

Here’s a few examples of specific praise:

“You wrote your name correctly all by yourself! Good job!”

“Wow you know a lot of words that begin with the letter S! You’ve been paying attention!”  

“That was so kind of you to share your toy with your sister!”

“I like the way you ate all of your breakfast, that will help your body and your brain become more strong!” 

“You put that whole puzzle together, you worked so hard on that, way to go!”

“Thank you for cleaning your room, you are so responsible!”

If you made it this far, thanks for reading my post!

I hope you gained some new insight into this topic!

Until my next post, remember…

Our words really do matter! 

Note: If you know anyone that you think may find this post useful, please feel free to share it with them! Thanks in advance! 

Photo credit:  Designed by Freepik


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