The Power of Rephrasing Negative Comments for Parents

Words matter, which is why parents need to be very careful when describing children or talking to them about behaviour issues. Negative comments can have a strong impact on a child’s confidence and self-image. 

By changing your language, you can influence the way your child sees themselves and help them accept critical feedback. The goal is to avoid shaming your child or making them feel inadequate. 

The Art of Re-framing 

Re-framing involves changing how you think about a situation or person. When describing personality traits in children they find difficult to manage, parents often resort to negative labels such as wild, stubborn or fussy. 

You can reframe these terms in a positive way by considering how these traits can be beneficial in different situations. For example, a wild child has a lot of energy which can make them excellent at sports. A stubborn child can be described as strong-willed, while a fussy child is discerning and knows what they like.

When you take the time to recognise the positive aspects of different personality traits, it’s easier to take a less critical stance. The goal is to help your child understand themselves and channel their energies in a positive direction. This doesn’t mean you need to accept negative behaviours, but when you acknowledge the positive it takes the sting out of criticism and helps kids become more reflective.

Adopting a Growth Mindset

Children are often their own harshest critics and negative self-talk is very destructive. Unfortunately, they often learn this negative talk from the adults in their lives. When kids are encouraged to adopt a growth mindset, they are less judgemental of themselves because they understand they are continually learning and growing, and that it’s okay to make mistakes.

You can encourage your child to embrace this mindset by turning negative comments into supportive ones in the following ways: 

     *Model Empathy. When your child is upset and acting out, rather than telling them to ‘knock it off’ acknowledge their emotions and tell them you’ll discuss their behaviour when they’ve calmed down. Showing empathy is often enough to deescalate a situation. 

     *Discuss Feelings. Instead of launching into a lecture about bad behaviour, ask your child to share how they’re feeling. When you make the effort to listen and understand, children will be much more open to feedback. If they’re unable to articulate their feelings, ask some general questions about what they would change if they could. 

     *Find Solutions. If your child is a chronic complainer, rather than telling them to ‘stop whinging’, help them find solutions. This will teach them to seek answers to their problems and build confidence and resilience. If they simply want to vent, give them some time to do this before turning their attention in a positive direction. 

     *Listen Closely. Take the time to listen to your child’s language. Is it full of negative comments and judgements? You can nip this in the bud by teaching them to turn phrases like “I can’t do it,” into “I can’t do it yet.” When they use “I don’t want to…” phrases, ask them to turn these into “I get to…” phrases.  This helps them recognise the things they have to be grateful for.

     *Teach Responsibility. Children need to learn how to behave with empathy and kindness. If they speak to you or others harshly, ask them to rephrase their comment in a nicer way. This helps them think about how their words affect others. 

Rephrasing negative comments can make a real difference.