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On Becoming Preschoolwise has an excellent suggestion for correcting your children. “As often as possible use the negative of the virtue, not the negative of the vice” (page 178). Sound confusing? Let me clear this up for you.
Basically, this means you tell your correct your child by using the word you want them to do. Did your child lie to you? Instead of saying, “You lied to Mommy” you would say, “You didn’t tell Mommy the truth.” Get it? Other things you would say, “That was not nice” instead of “That was rude.” “Keep your hands to yourself” instead of “don’t hit.” “Walk in the house” instead of “Don’t run.”
This is quite natural for me. I don’t know why, but it is the way I talk. Why is manner of speech this important?
Preschoolwise points out that preschoolers are gaining such a large vocabulary. The words they hear daily are going into their little heads and will come out of their little mouths.
This got me thinking. Our children mimic us. They talk like us, walk like us, roll their sleeves up like us…they want to be just like us. So the words we say to them will soon be said to others. While certain phrases don’t necessarily sound bad coming from an adult for some reason, when you hear it coming from your child it puts it in new perspective.
Something I say a lot is “Dang it.” Well, that isn’t so bad. It is better than other alternatives out there. But when my sweet little Kaitlyn says, “Dang it!” it makes me think about it. It doesn’t sound so good coming from her lips. In fact, I don’t like it.
So the words we say will be repeated–and with gusto. Imagine your sweet Bobby playing at the park with Billy. Billy gets in front of him and goes down the slide first. Would you rather hear, “That was rude!” or “That wasn’t nice!” come from little Bobby? Imagine your child’s voice. I am guessing most parents will prefer the latter phrase. That will only happen if you model it.
Your children soak up your instruction like little sponges, even when you don’t really think they are paying much attention. The other day I heard Brayden explaining to Kaitlyn that she needed to share something with him because that would show love and it is important to show love to your family members. Now, I know Brayden responds to me when I talk about showing love, but it was surprising for me to hear him explaining the situation to his little sister.
Another reason I see stressing the positive of virtue as a good idea is it tells the child what to do rather than just what not to do. “Don’t be noisy!” is not as clear to a child as “Be quiet!” You want your child to behave a certain way, so why not just help him out and tell him what that is rather than tell him one thing not to do and expect him to know what it is he should do. That makes things easier for everyone.
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