How negative language impact toddlers and teens

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How negative language impact toddlers and teens is a common question we, parents, have, but that we normally only give it a real thought when we aren’t talking with our children.

Let’s face it. As parents, we know exactly how hard it is to swallow the first impulse before the negative words come spewing out of our mouth.

“Calm down!”

“Stop right now!”

“Stop yelling!”

“No more jumping!”


You know it, right?

It’s endless.

And let’s make one thing clear: as grown-ups and parents, we can easily understand that our comment is not meant to have a negative impact.

It’s just what it is. Nothing else.

But we also need to remember that we are dealing with babies, toddlers, and even teens, where the first impact is what counts.

And that first impact is normally negative.

It might be our wording, the tone or even our look. Either way and normally we have the skills to mix them all, we can really bring down our children with a single comment.

As we said before, we know it. It’s not our goal to bring our children down. We just want something to happen that will protect either the children or ourselves and the children, or it is simply as an educational purpose.

But yes, our kids get the first comment, which is normally the only one, and take it personally.

From there, we have to manage a different problem

Not the yelling, or jumping, or fighting, but the sudden lack of self-esteem, lack of self-confidence, the tantrum…

I’m sure you’ve seen, or faced, a situation that seemed perfectly normal and pacific and, from a simple comment, that ended up being assimilated as a negative one, everything changed and now you had to manage a total new mental crisis.

We know how hard it is to avoid saying the first thing that comes to our mind.

We, as parents, want to solve it fast and move forward.

Children don’t work that way.

Their notion of time is completely different than ours.

For us, a half-an-hour drive is long but bearable. For them, it’s like spending a full day trapped.

For us, the “yelling” must stop and everything can continue as it was, without the yelling, but for them, it may have a negative impact that we can’t predict the consequences.

So, let’s share with you a first step that will make a major difference in your relationship with your children. And this will work being your children a baby, a toddler or a teen.

In fact, the sooner you start mentally approach calls for attention this way, the better.

Before we share it with you, let us explain something first.

Ideally, we would avoid a negative comment ALWAYS but let’s face it. That is really hard to control and although we will be able to do it eventually and that should be your goal, right now, we want to focus on the middle step.

A first step that will already make a difference, even knowing that the negative wording might still be there at the beginning.

Father’s comment

For me, as a father, I don’t even notice the comment being negative.

Well, I didn’t notice. I do now after being called by my wife about it and actually being aware of what I say and how I say it. I always looked at it as being pragmatic and as a way to solve a “problem” fast and not giving it too much importance.

But the problem was that our son gave it too much importance and whatever I said or how I said it could escalate very easily.

What you can do as your first step

In a situation where the negative wording comes spewing out of your mouth without controlling it, remember one thing: don’t ever stop your comment in the negative argument.

Always, ALWAYS, offer an alternative.

If you say to your kid “Stop running!”, in their mind, they won’t search for an alternative. They would simply think that they can’t do whatever they want to do and that parents are “evil”.

If you offer them an alternative, you’re giving them food for thought and make them leave the negative first comment behind.

Remember one thing. For us, adults and parents, when we have an issue at work, as an example, it’s not easy to arrive at home and live as nothing happened. And we know life will continue one more day.

For our kids, the “long-term” perspective still doesn’t exist. They live the moment a lot more than we do.

To be able to help them understand what not to do, we need them to understand what they CAN do.

This positive parenting approach builds confidence and eliminates confusion in their minds.

Can you imagine that researchers have found that toddlers hear the word “no” up to 400 times a day?


It’s too much.

We have to do something about it.

Now that we know what the first step is, can we go deeper and change our habits for good?

It’s hard. We won’t lie.

But it is worth the effort.

Father’s comment

I know where my colder or tougher approach comes from. My parents used to be like that with me and the result is that I am now a grown-up person, father of two, and I still don’t feel comfortable to share certain things with my own parents or even to ask for help.

I don’t want that for my kids, but I know that it is incredibly hard for me, because as we are normally a mirror of those we admire, I end up being a bit like my parents.

And the funny thing is that my father, one day, came to me and said I should soften my approach with my older son.

And he was totally right

A positive home, where there is no fear of sharing and where the communication is positive, is a fortress that helps develop balanced and confident people.

Did you know that the main contributor to a poor self-image and low self-esteem is the environment your child lives in? Mainly in their home and also with their peers.

This is really worth reading the previous sentence again and gives it a thought.

Ask yourself: Is your home a positive place where they feel comfortable or is it a place where they might feel judged and can grow some fear?

The closer they are to becoming a teenager, the harder it is to balance this positiveness.

Mother’s comment

This is a quick comment.

We, mothers, suffer a bit more for not controlling completely the environment our kids live in. At least this is my feeling.

Remember that we can’t control the school environment and what other kids will say or do but we can control home ground and make it a fortress of security and positive mood, where honesty should always prevail and where sharing is ALWAYS welcome.

Our goal is to build this positive fortress for your kids

Our children normally put us above anyone else.

We are perfect. We never fail. We know it all.

And when we use negative wording, is like God saying they’re human, and an imperfect one. Of course, they won’t give it a mythical interpretation but we just wanted to make this a bit more dramatic. Because in fact, for our kids, it is.

I am sure you’ve seen or heard your children, in a totally different situation, react to a friend, or cousin or someone else, in the exact same way, in the same tone and using the same wording, as you normally use with them.

And then you need to say that they shouldn’t talk like that and that they should say sorry.

Where do you think they learned to talk that way? Who are they mirroring?

Yes. It’s tough.

Our voice, what we say and how we say it is something they will carry forever, just like we carried the voice from our own parents or those who raised us.

Children connect through encouragement

They love knowing that they do it correctly. But we normally only point out the negative.

If we can change the wording, even in a situation where we need to correct them in some way, to a positive wording, we can avoid giving them the feeling of “failure” or of doing it wrong.

One thing we normally do at home that helps a lot is that each time we need to correct our son, a simple changing of our voice to a whisper or making up a funny foreign accent, or singing, is enough to make a difference and soften the message.

Children learn what they live

If they have positive experiences, they will grow in a positive mentality and that builds up their confidence and self-esteem.

And remember one more thing.

It’s not only the negative wording we say to them.

Even the negative words we say to ourselves can make an impact on them.

Each time one of us makes a comment such as the typical comment about when we feel a bit over-weight, it’s normal that we catch our son commenting that he also feels over-weight, which, by the way, doesn’t make any sense.

At least for him…

Confidence doesn’t simply come from praising our kids. It also builds up from parents praising themselves.


So, as a conclusion, next time you’ll need to ask your children to behave or to do something different from what they are doing, simply try to do it in a positive and offering an alternative way.

And, as a challenge, instead of saying “calm down” or “stop running”, why don’t you simply say something like: “Why wouldn’t we play [name a game you like to play together]”?

Or, something like “I can see you’re heaving a lot of fun and you can continue, but can you make it in “ninja” mode?”.

Make it positive. If you can work a positive approach right from the start, wonderful. But if a negative comment is the first thing you say, don’t ever forget to offer a positive alternative.

The stronger the positive alternative, the better it will be to eliminate the first negative impact.

Let’s build a positive fortress in our homes.

One positive and encouraging word at a time.

P.S. If you would like to learn more about this subject, there are two books we recently read, that we recommend to our closest friends. The first one is Positive Discipline Parenting Tools that is really a great and complete book.

P.S.1 The second one is a smaller, yet very interesting book, “How to Say No and Stay Friend with your Kid“. Both are great reads to better understand how to communicate with our kids, although the first one goes a bit deeper in other subjects.

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