Early Childhood Education

Positive Language Alternatives for Parents

Positive Language Alternatives for Parents

As a parent, you’ve probably realized something: You do a lot of negative talk with your kids. That doesn’t mean insulting them or talking down to them! It means you say a lot of “nos”, “don’ts,” “stops,” and “quits” on a daily basis. Does it have to be that way? If you’re looking for a way to say those words less but still provide effective parenting for your kids, using positive language could have a significant impact on how you communicate while still shaping your children’s behaviors and building their self-esteem. 

What Is Positive Language?

In short, positive language is a form of communication that focuses on highlighting the good instead of the negative. 


It’s almost a little too simple, isn’t it? It may be easy to explain, but the application can be hard. So here are a few examples of what positive language looks like.

  • Avoid the “Nos” – This takes some practice, so don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself leading with “no” statements. The easiest way to avoid a constant flow of negative language (no/stop/don’t), tell your child exactly what you need them to do instead. So:
    • “Keep your feet on the ground” instead of “Don’t climb on the furniture.”
    • “Hands at your side” instead of “Quit flailing around.”
    • “Quiet voices” instead of “Stop shouting.”
  • Use Positive Reinforcement – This also takes some intentionality, but catch your child doing right instead of only correcting them when they do wrong. Instead of only telling your child to pick up their toys, go out of the way to make a big deal about their behavior when they do it on their own or with a good attitude. Use their love language to make the appreciation seem even more personal. 
  • Avoid Criticizing or Shaming Language – Using negative language can damage your child’s self-esteem and make them feel ashamed. Instead of saying, “You’re being a bad kid,” try saying, “I don’t like that behavior. Let’s work on changing it.”
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Making the Switch

Using positive language is definitely more work for the parent than it is for the child. Saying no is so much easier than taking the time to explain why. 


But in the end, think about the benefits you could reap.

  • Your child won’t see you as just the person who says no.
  • They’ll learn by your example how to talk positively, kindly, and diplomatically with others.
  • They’ll identify making commands and demands as an ineffective form of communication. 

It will definitely take some practice, but it’s worth it for the long-term benefits it can have on your relationship with your child. So go forth and be positive!


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