What Do I Say To My Child?

All parents want to do what’s best for their child, especially encouraging a healthy self-esteem.  One (of many) ways to do that is to “STATE WHAT YOU SEE”.  Many parents tell their child “good job”; while there is nothing particularly wrong with this phrase, think about this for a minute- what if your child isn’t pleased with the job she’s done?  And, her mother is telling her that what she feels to be an adequate performance is good.  Those 2 words, of what is intended to be positive reinforcement, teach her that adequacy is acceptable.  Don’t worry, your question is heard… “But, what am I supposed to say?” This is where the phrase “state what you see” comes in.  Instead of saying “good job”, simply say out loud what it is you see your child doing.  Did he just roll over?  State what you see:  “You just rolled over!”  Did she just feed herself with a spoon?  State what you see: “You put the spoon in your mouth!”  You can also add things to expand your child’s vocabulary.  For example, “You put the spoon in your mouth, you’ve tried so many times to do that and you figured it out!”  Maybe you have an older child who is working on his letters.  When he’s finally able to write the first letter of his name, instead of saying, “good job”, try to state what you see:  “You made an ‘S’ for ‘Sam’!  That’s a hard letter, but you wrote it!”

Now, a lot of parents say, “But, I want my child to know what he did was good.”  You could start by asking your child (yes, even babies) how he feels about his accomplishment.  “You just made an ‘S’.  How do you feel about that?”  Not only does this question give him the opportunity to think about what he’s done for himself before hearing from someone else how he’s done, it also gives him the opportunity to try out new emotion words- proud, excited, surprised, happy, etc.  Once he tells you how HE feels, then you can agree with him.  He tells you, “I’m excited I finally did it.”  You can say, “Me too, you’ve been trying so hard to make an ‘S’.”

This is a very hard habit to break, but start by listening to yourself, those around you, and strangers at the grocery store.  When you hear yourself, or someone else, say “good job”, think about how you could  state what you see and say it next time.  Because, children are constantly doing something amazing- there is always a next time!

Written by Family Star Parent Rebecca Wilson

Rebecca Wilson, MS, is mother to Emogene (IC7) and is an enthusiast for all things related to young children.  She earned her Bachelors Degree in Child Development and her Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education both from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.  She has worked with children of all ages from birth through 3rd grade in different positions from teaching to administration to consulting.  Currently, she is a grant manager for the early childhood council in Adams County.