As a parent, you’re always trying your best to help your child be confident, resilient, and happy. But sometimes even the best parents slip into using language that undermines those goals.

Confidence Booster #1: Skip the Exaggerations

When you’re handling a whiny, strong-willed toddler it can be easy to use sweeping statements like “you always whine!” or “you never clean up your plate!”. But the truth is, those statements are usually unfair and always untrue. No child is always whining or never helping. Using phrases like that can make your tot feel insulted…and even lead to resentment and less cooperation.

We suggest tossing the worlds “always,” “never,” and “worst” right out of your vocabulary!

Confidence Booster #2: Reframe That Name

Along with these exaggerations, there are a few more labels that can go on your verbal no-fly list. Contrary to the old sticks-and-stones adage, verbal attacks can hurt a child, and negative descriptors we assign to youngsters can tear them down. Fortunately, positive words can be just as formative: positive descriptors can build a little one up.

When you find yourself wanting to call your toddler bossy or sensitive, take a moment to think about a positive word you can use instead. Labels can stick with kids for a long time— so let’s make them positive!

For example, you can call your little one “a leader” instead of “bossy.” Use “sympathetic” instead of “sensitive.” “Nosy” can be turned into “curious.” Instead of “picky”, your child just knows exactly what they like. “Slowpoke” can become “thoughtful.”

Think of a positive way to talk about those parts of your tot’s personality that test your patience. And remember: today’s “bossy” toddler can grow into an adult leader. Those aspects of their personality might be the traits they need to succeed later.

Confidence Booster #3: Connect with Respect

When your child is upset, it's important that you connect with respect: This means making your tot feel heard and understood using the Fast-Food Rule and speaking in a language they understand (Toddler-ese).

About Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.