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Negative Versus Positive Language: How Negative Language Can Affect Kids

How we live our lives and create our own happiness can be affected drastically by the language we use. Using negative language versus positive language can create dramatic mood shifts, lowered self-esteem and self-confidence daily. This can also affect how we parent our children and how our children learn to speak to themselves or others.

What is negative language?

Negative language is the way we express ourselves that includes or gives a negative connotation.

Examples include:

  • No problem
  • Can’t Complain
  • Don’t throw the ball inside
  • You can’t….
  • Stop interrupting

Negative language often tells the recipient what they cannot do or what cannot be done. There is a tone to blame and the person is at fault. It appears as hostile or unengaging.

What is positive language?

Positive language lets someone know what you can do instead of what you cannot. Positive language will highlight the positive, show a willingness to help, project a service-oriented attitude, emphasize what can be done, avoid statements that can put people on the defensive, when you have to say no explain the reason and show empathy.

Examples of positive language includes:

  • Definitely!
  • Everything’s going well
  • Please take the ball outside
  • It’s great to see you

How does negative language affect our kids?

Negative language can be more difficult for children to understand. When we just use words such as ‘no’ or ‘stop’ we are not giving them the reason for why they should not do something or what they could possibly do instead.

Positive language on the other hand can help our children by reinforcing the positive and good behavior. When a child is told ‘no’ they resort to a fight or flight response. Often times their reaction will be an emotional response. Helping a child redirect behavior, in positive ways, on the other hand, can help them reinforce positive behavior and not feel disciplined or in trouble.

How can you change your language with your children from negative to positive?

Instead of….

Stop Running… use ….. Please Walk

No jumping on the couch ….  use … Please sit on your bottom of the couch

Don’t cut your hair …. use… Scissors are for cutting paper

Stop yelling… use… Please use your inside voice

Stop whining… (Find another way for them to communicate their needs to you in that moment…. Saying ‘use your words’ especially when the child is emotional can also be harmful and frustrating)

How do you utilize positive language in your household?



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