Something to Avoid
This is a very common parenting mistake that I observe in public. “You’re being a bad boy.” “You were a bad girl today.” “Stop being such a bad kid.” “Be a good girl.”
It’s okay to use these adjectives to describe behaviors but not the child. We are all inclined to use these terms but they are harmful to our children and our relationships with them for various reasons.
1. We should not be policing their behavior but rather teaching them. The relationship should be one of love, trust, connection, and secure attachment. We should not label the child as good or bad based on their behaviors.
2. These labels are shaming and often, children know they did something wrong. Shame leaves them feeling incapable whereas compassion and encouragement make them feel like they can correct the behavior next time.
3. We should not reduce children to their behaviors. They are human.
4. They internalize what their parents say they are. This means that they are more likely to be what their parents say they are.
5. It’s damaging to their sense of self and self-esteem.
6. Children need to hear that their parents believe in them. These statements convey the opposite.
It takes practice to stop using these terms in this context.