We’ve all said it. We’ve all heard other people say it. And why shouldn’t we say it? Isn’t telling your child that they’re ‘good’ a…well…good thing?
Actually no, it’s not.
When we say ‘good girl’ or ‘good boy’ to our child it’s usually in response to them doing something that we’ve asked them to do – putting their toys away, tying their shoelaces by themselves or helping out in some way. While these may all be admirable behaviours, telling our child that they’re ‘good’ for doing something, carries the implication that they’re not good if they don’t.
All children are inherently good although they will all exhibit ‘bad’ behaviour at some point in their lives. This does not make them ‘bad’ children, just good children doing naughty things.
It is important to make the distinction between your child’s action or behaviour and who they are as a person.
When you tell your daughter that she is a good girl for catching a ball during a game, does that mean she is a bad girl when she doesn’t manage to catch it? Is she only a good girl if she catches the ball?
‘Of course not!’ I hear you cry. ‘That’s ridiculous!’ It is ridiculous when we start to think about it. We all know our children are good, kind-hearted, well-meaning beings even during their most challenging behaviour so why do we insist on labelling them ‘good’ (or worse ‘bad’) as a result of a particular action?
Now I’m not saying that we shouldn’t distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour or that we shouldn’t acknowledge our children’s achievements and milestones. We just need to be really clear that we are commenting on the action itself instead of the child.
‘Wow, you tied your shoelaces all by yourself. I can see you worked really hard to get it right.’
‘You drew in my new book. I’m upset that you did that. It is not ok to draw in books.’
‘Thanks for helping me with that.’
If you’re really at a loss go ahead and tell them that the thing they just did was good (or bad) – just don’t tell your child that they are good or bad.
Adults don’t tell each other they’re good or bad girls and boys – it would be completely patronising. If someone said that to me I’d probably slap them! So let’s afford our kids the same respect, hmmm?
Do you have any pet hates regarding speaking to children? Please share below!
by Mel Duncan