The importance of what gets said in the presence of young children

13th May 2024

Young children are like sponges, absorbing everything they see and hear. What is said in their presence can have a significant impact on their brain, emotions, and behavior.

Here are some of the negative impacts of hearing negative language:

  • Brain development: Negative language can stunt the development of the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for executive function skills such as planning, problem-solving, and impulse control.
  • Emotions: Negative language can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.
  • Behavior: Negative language can lead to aggression, withdrawal, and other behavioral problems.

In addition to the impact on the individual child, negative language can also create a toxic environment for the entire family. When children hear negative language, they learn that it is acceptable to speak to others in that way. This can lead to conflict and disharmony within the family.

Here are some examples of negative language that should be avoided in the presence of young children:

  • Put-downs: Insults, criticisms, and other forms of put-downs can damage a child’s self-esteem.
  • Threats: Threats can make children feel unsafe and anxious.
  • Negative labels: Labels such as “stupid,” “lazy,” and “bad” can make children feel worthless and hopeless.
  • Yelling and arguing: Yelling and arguing can create a stressful and chaotic environment for children.
  • Gossip and complaining: Talking negatively about others can teach children that it is okay to be mean and hurtful.

It is important to remember that even if you are not speaking directly to your child, they can still hear what you are saying. Be mindful of the language you use, even when you are talking to other adults or to yourself.

Here are some tips for creating a positive language environment for young children:

  • Use positive language: Focus on what children are doing right, rather than what they are doing wrong.
  • Be respectful: Even when you are disciplining your child, speak to them in a respectful tone of voice.
  • Model positive communication: Show your children how to communicate with others in a kind and respectful way.
  • Create a safe space: Let your children know that they can come to you with any problem or concern, and that you will listen to them without judgment.

By being mindful of the language we use in the presence of young children, we can help to create a positive environment that supports their healthy development.

Additional tips for parents and caregivers:

  • Be aware of your own stress levels: When you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, it is more likely that you will say things that you regret. Take some time for yourself to relax and de-stress before spending time with your child.
  • Take a break: If you find yourself getting angry or frustrated, take a break from the situation. Go for a walk, take a few deep breaths, or count to ten.
  • Talk to your child about their feelings: After you have calmed down, talk to your child about what happened. Help them to understand their feelings and to develop healthy coping mechanisms.
  • Seek professional help if needed: If you are struggling to manage your anger or stress, or if you are concerned about your child’s well-being, seek professional help. A therapist can teach you how to communicate more effectively and to manage your emotions in a healthy way.
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