Sometimes things do not seem so obvious until it is. In the case of the words “Good” and “Bad” for example, for our younger kids, this can influence them more then we realize. First, let’s start by telling kids things like “thanks for being a good kid” or “you are a bad boy.” What’s wrong with saying these things? Well, for our young and easily influenced kids, telling them that they are good or bad effects the way they perceive themselves more then we realize. You may want your kid to do something, and in your mind, you think that it will motivate them to do what you want if you label it as good if they do it, and it’s bad if they don’t. Is this manipulative? Yes, and that’s one of the tools we parents might use to get the children to act the way we want or need them to at that moment. The problem, however, is this label of good or bad will manifest in their behavior.
I want to take it a step further and say that we should also be careful not to say that what they do may also be good or bad for the same reasons that the kids will put these labels on themselves. “Good boys brush their teeth before bed, and only bad boys don’t clean up their room.” These are labels on actions that the child will then label themselves as being a bad boy in this example if they don’t follow through. I get it, you want them to do whatever it is that needs to get done, so what can we do?
We are trying to raise our kids to be high functioning, well-adjusted adults. What is it that adults have to do every day? We make decisions! So let’s practice this with our kids from now. “If you don’t brush your teeth, your breath will smell bad, and you will have cavities which can make you lose your teeth all together as an adult.” You are here instead of telling them that it’s good to brush their teeth, are instead explaining the consequences of making the wrong decision or an unfavorable choice. “When your room is clean, it makes me happy to see that you made the right decision. I would be happy to let you play with your toys, knowing that you will put them back, and I will not trip on them and hurt myself.” our goal here is to raise mentally healthy kids who are not influenced by labels placed on them by others or from their self-talk. “Thank you for making a good decision today; it makes my day brighter and sweeter.”