Watch Your Mouth!

Why it is bad to call kids bad

My friend, Dan grew up being told he would never make it and that he wasn’t good enough. When it came to fights with his sister as a child, it was always his fault. He grew up thinking he was the problem. As a result, he did not do well in school, he dropped out of high school, got into drugs, and became excessively overweight. It took Dan a while of living in mediocrity to realize that what his parents had told him all his life did not have to be true. He realized he had had enough and decided to change his mindset. “I am enough,” he would tell himself daily. “I am capable.” Dan got clean, got his G.E.D., and lost 100 pounds. Dan could have had a great life from the start, if the people in his life had not brought him down. But he made it happen anyway.

Children at any age are extremely mold-able. They are developing into people and they absorb everything. They are also very sensitive to different types of energy. This includes both negative and positive energy which are expressed through body language and tone of voice. It does not matter how young a child is or whether or not he or she can understand what you are saying to him. He understands by the way in which you express yourself if you are happy with him or mad at him, if you are putting him down or encouraging him. What you say to a child always matters.

In my experience working with young children, I have often heard my coworkers say of a child, “Oh, he’s so bad!” Although this is not a direct statement to the child, it has the same detrimental effects. A child who hears that they are bad all his life will grow up believing that they are indeed bad. As a result, they will give into their vices and not perform as well in school. As adults, they will have much to overcome in proving that they are competent. Telling a child that they are bad is belittling them. According to a CNN article belittling a child is equivalent to emotional abuse.

Self-esteem is extremely important both in a developing person and an adult trying to function in society. What we think of ourselves determines our behavior and how we treat others. It determines how far we will go to achieve out goals and whether or not we deem ourselves worthy of having goals. Parents and caretakers have a dramatic effect on developing self-esteem, as preschool teachers Becky Capron and Dina Flucke attest. Children need to feel loved in order to love themselves. So instead of getting frustrated when children misbehave, look for opportunities to encourage them in what they are doing well, such as sharing. Give them opportunities to succeed by giving them options. You could say, “Either put the blocks away or put the cars away.” Giving them a choice allows them to feel like it is more of their own decision to help pick up rather than being forced to.

Just because Dan turned his life around, doesn’t mean all kids who are subjected to the same negativity will do the same. The responsibility is ours to nurture our kids so that they love themselves from the start.

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