Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ten Different Ways To Talk About Your Child

I read this great blog post the other day, with a suggestion for a different way of looking at shyness in children. It inspired me to think of other ways we can rephrase the way we talk about our children:
  1. He's not messy. He's creative.
  2. She's not bossy. She's a natural leader.
  3. He's not hyper. He's energetic.
  4. She's not mischievous. She's curious.
  5. He's not slow. He's careful.
  6. She's not selfish. She's in touch with her needs.
  7. He's not bratty. He's sharing his dreams.
  8. She's not a nag. She's determined.
  9. He's not a picky-eater. He's selective.
  10. She's not shy. She's thoughtful.*
There are two ways to talk about each of the ten behaviors above. You can point to the negative side, where the behavior is a flaw, or you can point to the positive side, where it becomes a skill.

He's not messy... (yes, that's Jello)
The negative labels are all dead ends. They are pigeonholes, where our children might get stuck. The rephrased ones leave room for growth, for possibilities, for opportunities. A hyper child can be a problem. An energetic child can be a joy. A picky-eater can be a pain. A selective eater makes confident food choices.

Changing the way we talk about our children can change the way we look at them. And most importantly, it can change the way our children look at themselves. 

We can choose to look on the bright side. It's all about the words we use.

Can you think of some more that I missed?

*Thanks to Teacher Tom for the inspiration, and for number ten on the list, which is the title of his post.


  1. I had a midwife tell me I had a cuddly baby :)

    She was totally useless in many ways but I often think about how different my baby's early weeks would have been if she'd told me I had a clingy baby and made me feel it was a bad thing that he liked to be held!

  2. He's not spoiled, he's lavished with love

  3. She's not indulged -- she's getting her needs met.

  4. I love all three suggestions so far! Thanks for sharing and keep them coming!

  5. Love the list! As usual u made me think a different way. Nicki and Annette those r awesome and I'm totally stealing em :D

  6. Hello there Vickie! I have several times read something on your blog, that I have been meaning to write about myself, but haven't had the time. You're so right in what you are saying and it is important to remember that all traits have a negative and positive side to it and why focus on the negative? I have write my take on the subject if you want to read it :)

  7. I was told growing up that I was too sensitive. I was sensitive FOR SURE, but I kept thinking "well it's better than being insensitive" which is what I saw in those who were triggering my sensitivity. So I stuffed ALL of my emotions.... felt shameful about them. I have come a LONG way in excavating my inner life but that label was fairly damaging to me and I still suffer the effects. I am STILL very sensitive. Most people in my adult life would never know. I keep that part well hidden and protected.

    There is ALWAYS a choice in any situation to see the positive or the negative. Which one we choose to see/ notice/ comment on has more to say about the observer than the observed. When it comes to parenting, I find that we might tend to apologize for and label our kids because we are embarrassed or worried about how others perceive us as parents. Perhaps if we had grown up fully accepted and supported this would not be the case! Thanks for this reminder Vickie. Let's break the cycle and tell a new story about ourselves and our kids!

  8. He's not fat, he's well fed.

  9. He's not lazy, he's motivated to do nothing.

  10. He's not angry, he's passionate.

    He doesn't "hit" people, he hugs them hard!

  11. She is not naughty, she is curious

  12. @JenO, I am right there with you on the sensitive thing!

    @Anonymous, interesting suggestions.

    @Chetana, I like that one!

  13. @Maryam, Thanks! That is the best compliment. I love making people (and myself) think!

  14. He is not hyper active, he is a doer and magnanimous about it.

  15. great post! Using for sunday surf, you know that's a really important exercise towards accepting your child as is

  16. @Douglas, I like that one. :)

    @mamapoekie, Thank you! I feel that the language we use to talk about our kids is one of the easiest things to fix, and yet it can be a very powerful thing.

  17. I hate when adults say kids are "shy" if they choose to hide. I don't think they've had positive interactions with strangers, or maybe the adults are creepy, so they are wisely being cautious.

  18. @luna, Exactly. When we say "Oh she's being shy," it's almost like we are saying there would be no legitimate reason not to want to talk to a person.