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The Power of Words

While extensive research has proven praise does well to build children’s self-esteem, recent ones claim that too much praising may be detrimental. Praising intelligence or the innate natural alone (good grades, great drawing, perfect performance), instead of effort, resulted to children not wanting to learn any other thing that takes longer to learn, or is harder. They tend to say, ‘I’m not good at that, never mind.’ Unknowingly, by saying these words, we build the mindset- the mindset that there are things we can be good at, and other things are not for us.

Findings have pointed out that people, who have mindsets affixed to their intellectual capacity or talent, also think that they cannot learn things that they cannot master easily. I would have loved to share with you more about Dweck’s Mindset Theory, and Self-theories but will save that for next time.

Below are some parenting traps. I give tremendous credit to the founders of Love and Logic Parenting, and Covey’s 7 Habits for Highly Effective People, and Triple P (Positive Parenting Program). Will let you in on the power of paradigm in a while.

I am what you say I am (but you show me otherwise)

One of our duties as parents and educators is to build a positive self-concept for our children. But, sadly, some of us can’t do that when we’re busy. Our troubles most often lie in being inconsistent, in letting words be dependent on our moods. We say, ‘I love you’ some nights, and on other occasions, we dismiss them. Sadly again, sometimes the first attention we give is when we are pointing something wrong in what they’re doing.

You come home from a day-long meeting to a demanding daughter. When you scold your teen when she screams and talks back, how do you think that’d end? She’s not supposed to scream, but you can, because you’re older and you are to be followed? This will only garner distrust, and resentment from our children when we don’t do what we preach.

Blind praises

There is such a thing as praising blindly or emptily and praising rightly.

So we’ve learned that we need to praise our child to build self-esteem. But the rule too-much-isn’t-good applies. Now let’s take a look at these too-generic-type-of-praises.

Your 4-year-old packs away his toys after playing, you say, ‘Good boy!’

That’s fine; totally okay. Later on, he throws some lost morsel in the bin, you still say, ‘Wow, good job!’ He finishes eating all his food, ‘Good boy!’ At night, you bring him to bed, and you tell him, ‘Good boy ‘yan, sleep na’. (That’s a good boy. Sleep already.) Throughout the day, try to count how many times you’ve alternated ‘good boy’ and ‘good job’.

We can try it this way: you say, ‘Wow, you packed your toys well, thank you for helping me!’

‘Good listening, Anak!’

‘You tried to pee on the potty, good job!’

You tried to put your shoes on, that’s great. Let’s keep practicing, okay?

If you are running out of words, try to remember to focus on and praise the effort! Give MUCH physical affection with your praise, describing what you see, not just merely a ‘good boy, good girl’ Look them in the eyes, and say the right praise! Praise is best when you are clear and specific, and when you are sincere.

I am what I think you think I am

Have you been told that you’re poor at something? That you’ve been doing things the wrong way, and that theirs is right? Has that thought grown with you?

You know how it is with kids?

They become what WE SAY they are. Our kids also become what they think you think of them. Does that make enough sense?

With our words and actions- whether we express frustration or we build them with praises- we shape their self-esteem. With how we model and how consistent we are with what we say and do, all these contribute to the way our children feel about themselves.

The trap here is we don’t realize the power our words have. Or that our words sometimes have secret, negative meanings. When we say, ‘I’ve told you many times already, right? Clean your room.’

What goes to our child sometimes is, ‘You’re not listening, I’ve told you many times already.’

I was told by my mom several times- lovingly, sometimes hurriedly (and it stuck to me), ‘Ako na maghuhugas para mabilis. It’s okay, Anak.’ (I’ll do the washing so we’ll be fast. It’s okay, my daughter.) And I realized as I was growing up that she must have meant I do things slowly, so to be spared from it, my mom will do the washing. The sad, bonus part is, I really never learned to do as many chores, and I would have been the master of the house by now.

Going Commando!

Drill sergeant parents will, later on, invite disobedience. Anything and anyone held tightly would want to rebel. I'm sure we have our own share of stories with this theme.


...a consultant parent always asks, never dictates or shouts orders.

A consultant parent gives value to the child’s thoughts and feelings when it comes to decision-making on issues that involve the child.

Consultant parents may be assertive. Assertive in the books is defined as the ability to maintain one’s rights to express thoughts, feelings, requests in non-threatening ways. Below is a beautiful summation of what Love and Logic parents do:

Love and Logic strives to offer our children a chance to develop that needed positive self-concept. With love enough to allow the children to fail, with love enough to allow the consequences of their actions to teach them about responsibility, and with love enough to help them celebrate the triumphs, our children’s self-concept will grow each time they survive on their own.

Let’s keep reminding ourselves of that role. Let’s build on our child’s strengths.

Present parents use mindful words. We need to be IN the moment so we can say what we mean, and let our child feel our consistent love.

Future Blog: More parenting traps we need to watch out for

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