Firm, consistent discipline is more effective than negative comments.

How Do Negative Comments Affect a Child's Behavior?

by Darlene Zagata

Have you ever listened to yourself when you talk to your child? Do you choose positive statements or negative? Everyone slips up and says something negative once in a while. Admit it -- you know you do. That's okay as long as you're not making negative comments all the time. However, when you make a habit of saying things like, "You're so messy. You can't do anything right," all the time, those words begin to shape your child's behavior and how she feels about herself.

1. Don't Use Words as Weapons

Words can be destructive weapons that destroy your child's self esteem before it even starts to develop. Choose your words carefully. Saying things like, "Stop acting like a baby," to your preschooler lowers his confidence. Use positive reinforcement instead. Even toddlers are extremely observant. They pay attention to everything you say and do -- you are your child's role model. If you are negative, you may be teaching your child to be negative too.

2. Withdrawn or Aggressive Children

Children that are raised by chronically pessimistic parents may become withdrawn or aggressive. A child that feels he can't do anything right may give up trying at all. He may withdraw inside himself and become shy around others. Negative parenting is more likely to produce defiant, angry children. Even the most patient parent may lose her cool and yell when her little darling pushes her buttons all day long. However, negative parenting is a style of parenting that may include physical aggression toward the child, such as rough handling and negative comments. This type of parenting may lead to antisocial behavior in a child.

3. Acting Out for Attention

Children who hear negative comments all the time may cry out for attention, and not necessarily by verbally screaming. To a young child, any attention may seem better than none. Your child may throw a temper tantrum to get you to notice her. It's not the best way to get attention, but it works. It's easy for you to get so absorbed with your job, bills and the many things that need done at home, that your child may seem to blend into the background. Sometimes parents just feel overwhelmed. Instead of saying something like, "Stop acting like a baby," try saying, "You are a big girl now and I know you can be good while Mommy finishes her work." Redirect your child's attention the next time she throws a tantrum and give her the one on one time that she needs.

4. Think Before You Speak

Watch what you say to your child and how you say it. Everyone says negative things occasionally, especially when tired or frustrated. If you make negative comments at times, be sure not to direct the comments at your child. Instead of saying, "You're so messy," to your preschooler, say "Let's see how we can clean this room up together." Take advantage of opportunities to praise your child. When your child picks up his toys and puts them away, tell him how nice his room looks and what a good job he did. Positive reinforcement and praise help build a child's self esteem, rather than destroy it. Think before you speak and remain calm when talking to your child. Don't let your emotions get the best of you. You can't take back the things you say, and your child may have a hard time forgetting them. If you do say something negative, explain to your child that sometimes people get upset and say things they don't mean. Let your child know that you love him unconditionally.

About the Author

Darlene Zagata has been a professional writer since 2001, specializing in health, parenting and pet care. She is the author of two books and a contributing author to several anthologies. Zagata attended the Laurel Business Institute to study in the medical assistant/secretarial program. She earned her associate degree through the U.S. Career Institute.

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