How often do you say something or someone (i.e. in parenting or about a pet) is Good or Bad? Probably a lot – at least my wife and I did and finally realized it as parents of an active (and expressing major independence) 4 1/2 year-old and a 1-year-old…
It hit us when Julia started asking “Am I being “good” today?” Then I started thinking how generic a term that is! What is being good or bad mean? As adults and/or parents, we should really be specific:
- Julia, that was very helpful of you to put your plate and cup by the sink when you were done with your snack.
- Julia, that was nice of you to play with your sister while we cleaned up the kitchen.
- Julia, thank you for helping me bring the shopping bags into the house.
- Julia, that was kind and generous of you to share your crackers with me.
Now, aren’t the four statements above more meaningful and specific than just “Oh Julia that was good” or “You’ve been so good today.”
Same goes for “Julia stop being bad.” How is a toddler or preschooler to understand what is really wrong? Being more specific like:
- Julia, it is not nice to take a toy away from your sister when she is playing with it.
- Julia, it is not respectful to interrupt and start talking to Mommy when you can see & hear she is talking to Daddy.
In the above two examples what is wrong is clear – don’t take the toy away from your sister and don’t interrupt when Mommy & Daddy are in the middle of a conversation.
As I was thinking about this topic for my blog – it hit me that this applies to our adult conversations with colleagues and spouses/significant others also.
I shouldn’t say “I don’t like the stew you made for dinner” or “This tea tastes bad” or “I don’t like the layout of your Power Point presentation” or “Wow, this chicken dish is really good!”
- Why don’t I “like” the stew? Is it too salty/sweet/watery? If I don’t explain what it is I don’t like about it, how will my wife know how to change it up next time?
- What’s “bad” about the tea? Too sour/sweet/strong/weak? How should the next cup or pot be made?
- Why don’t I like the presentation? Is it too crowded, lacks images, too lengthy?
- What’s so “good” about the chicken? Is it spicy and I enjoy spicy food? Very zesty & flavorful/well seasoned?
I think we get the point now and understand that being specific and explaining why we like/don’t like something or why someone or thing is bad or good is such a better way to communicate – whether with a child or adult.
So work on breaking the habit – my wife and I are! We know it takes some time…Join us!