Negative vs. Positive Messages

Self-Esteem is a BIG topic and needs much more attention than a quick parenting tip! However, we will focus on one aspect that affects self-esteem… paying attention to the Positive vs Negative messages ratio. This just means ensuring you use more positive, loving, supporting words than negative, “correcting” words. Sometimes this is referred to as Strengths Based vs. Deficit Based.

For each “negative” message, give 5 “positive” to help build up self-esteem.

It is often said that 5-10 positive messages are needed to counteract one negative message.

Why is this?

Because our brains are more sensitive to negative information. I bet most people reading this have heard a negative message or criticism from childhood that they have carried around with them a long time. Even though the person who delivered this message may have not had ill intent, words can sting and they imprint. Especially if they are about a particular aspect of self. Often, even the most mild change in wording and tone can have a big impact on the receiver.

For example:

  • Don’t forget your books AGAIN!
  • Why didn’t you come out right away when I came to get you?
  • How come there is so much food left in your lunch?

How might these messages be received as a child?

Possibly, “I’m not good enough”, “I’m so forgetful”, “I’m always late”,”I failed again”, “Mom’s not pleased with me.”

Instead… try “Connecting Before Correcting”

  • Have a great day & remember to grab your books!
  • Hi there! Did class end a bit late today?
  • Were you not feeling very hungry today?

The subtle difference is that there is interest and concern expressed first and no judgement implied in the questions. This shows positive concern, as opposed to negative message. Of course, as parents there are times we need to give reminders and speak about behaviour and routines etc.  If we keep in mind to connect with the person first, the message will always be received more positively. This holds true for all relationships, not just parent and child.

A simple phrase to keep in mind. Connect. And THEN (if need be), Correct. ♥

For more about the language of encouragement, see this parenting tip.

What are your thoughts about this? Do you have any examples of how you might implement this in your parenting?


4 Responses to “Negative vs. Positive Messages”

  1. Nadia says:

    So true! Thanks for the wonderful tips.

  2. Victoria says:

    Great article words are so powerful.

  3. Teresa says:

    So true that we remember the negative messages even from years ago! Love the tips shared to put the messages in a positive tone rather than a “blaming, negative” tone. Other examples could include: putting a note in your child’s lunch saying you love them and thinking about them today and then to also please remember to take your dirty gym cloths home. Connection is so important – when coming home after a full day and seeing the counter full to first greet your child and take time to listen about his or her day before talking about the mess

  4. L. Walter L. Walter says:

    This is a good place to start. Self esteem is so multilayered. Some children can let a percentage of negative messaging roll off their back while other children wear every negative message they hear. I am not sure why that is so connecting before correcting is so important. Negative message can be come so buried inside us we do not know they are there until we want to fly.

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