5 Ways to Be More Mindful of Negative Language

Be more mindful of negative language with these five tips from Mighty Mommy.

Cheryl Butler
6-minute read
Episode #378

Tip #3: Think Like a Teacher

The best teachers don't yell or take children's misbehavior personally, but instead look at it as a learning opportunity.  

So if your kid leaves the milk carton empty in the fridge or the wet towels all over the bathroom floor, ask yourself: What does he need to learn and how can I teach him that? Maybe he needs a note posted on the refrigerator door to remind him about the milk? Maybe he needs to experience the consequences for leaving the towels strewn throughout the bathroom (such as leaving that same wet towel there for his next shower). Think about ways to make the situation into a teachable moment, rather than a stressful shouting match.

Tip #4: Transform Criticism into Compliments

Criticizing another person can backfire if it’s done out of anger or frustration. If you criticize children often, they can feel like failures which can result in low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence. Instead of pointing out what they aren’t doing well, use inspiration to encourage them instead.

Instead of pointing out what they aren’t doing well, use inspiration to encourage them instead.

For example if your athletically inclined daughter continues to struggle in Algebra and Chemistry, and might not be allowed to play on the school softball team if she doesn’t pull her grades up, don’t criticize her for her academic shortcomings. Instead, use uplifting language to encourage her, such as "You're working so hard with your tutor, your grades are improving already. Don’t give up—we’re rooting for you."  See Also:  How to Give Compliments

Tip #5: "You Know Better Than That!"

One phrase I used to use a little too often when one of my kids made a poor choice was “You know better than that” or “What were you thinking?” At the time it seemed to make the point without being too harsh with words, but in essence those two phrases are just as hurtful as name calling. In reality a child might not have known better. For example, my kids know that there is no ball playing in the house yet my 13-year old couldn’t resist throwing a soft football across the living room to his brother who missed the ball instead knocking over a framed photo on the mantle.  Of course I know that they understand the rules but I knew by the look on both their faces they already felt badly that they had done it and caused the frame to fall and break. There was no point in screeching out a “You know better than that!” so instead, I entered the living room, looked at both of them and at the broken frame and asked them to please take the game outside after they cleaned up the accident.

Other barbs include "I can't believe you did that!" and "It's about time!" They may not seem awful, but you don't want to say them too much because they can plant the seed with your child that they never do anything right.

How are you more mindful of negative language in your home?  Share your thoughts in the Comments section at quickanddirtytips.com/mighty-mommy, post your ideas on the Mighty Mommy Facebook pageor email me at mommy@quickanddirtytips.com.

Also visit my family-friendly boards at Pinterest.com/MightyMommyQDT.


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.