5 Ways to Speak Positively to Children

Kids cause plenty of frustrating parenting moments. And when handled negatively, they can damage kids’ self-esteem. Mighty Mommy has 5 ways parents can put a positive spin on negative situations.

Cheryl Butler
5-minute read
Episode #238

My kids have been home for summer vacation for less than a week now, and I’m already hearing rumblings about their being bored, witnessing some sibling squabbles, and noticing a bit of disrespect towards me when I give gentle reminders about chores that need to be done. While I don’t care for their unpleasant attitudes, I know from 20 years of experience as a mom that yelling or talking down to them is never going to turn these negative situations around. It may actually make them worse. So I try to enforce what I do know works—communicating in a positive way.>

Children respond well to kindness. While what you say and the tone of your voice indicates how you are feeling, your child interprets your words and tone as direct messages about his own self-worth. Today Mighty Mommy has 5 ways to keep the lines of communication positive between you and your children:

Tip #1: Tone of Voice Matters

Tone of voice is as important as the words you use when speaking with another person. People, kids especially, tend to respond to a request when they hear a pleasant voice rather than someone shouting or overreacting with an emotional tirade. Think about it—when you coworker, your spouse, or even a stranger in the supermarket wants to get your attention, would you rather they use a harsh tone to speak with you or calmly let you know they need something from you?   

For example, when I’m faced with a situation like my teenager ignoring me when it’s time for him to take out the trash, I interrupt what he’s involved in. I calmly step in front of the television and in a matter-of-fact tone remind him “Hey, Connor, I’m not sure if you heard me a moment ago, but you need to take the garbage out now so your sister can finish up the kitchen.” If I need to remind one more time, the TV will be shut off. I may also give him a gentle rub on the shoulders and jokingly say something like “Last I checked, the garbage can’t walk itself out to the can.” I can usually get a chuckle out of him and it helps keep the tension levels low.

Tip #2: 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. 

For example if your athletically inclined daughter continues to struggle in Geometry 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 routing for you."   

See also: 10 Healthy Habits to Strengthen Your Family


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.