The power of words

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Words have the power to build and energize or to frighten and devastate. When we notice and appreciate children's efforts, we help them grow in hope and confidence. In contrast, when we evaluate the child, we activate anxiety and resistance. It may seem obvious that negative labels ("lazy," "stupid," "mean") are damaging to children; it comes as a surprise that even positive labeling ("good," "perfect," "best") can be disabling.

It is important that we be positive and encouraging with children. We acknowledge effort and express appreciation ("You worked very hard on that." "Thank you for your help."), but we do not label or evaluate the child.

When there are problems, we look for solutions rather than blame or criticize. Even the inevitable anger can be expressed without labeling or blaming. Behind all these skills of caring communication is a deep respect for children.

—Haim Ginott

Jesse McCarthyComment