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  • Writer's pictureRobbin McManne

Why Your Words Matter

I have been called selfish all my life…

What negative labels are you carrying from childhood? Nearly everyone has them. These are the words that your parents may have used to describe you—shy, selfish, troublemaker, rowdy, defiant, scaredy cat, whiner, uncooperative—and chances are, that these labels may be part of your self identity or your inner voice, even as an adult!

In turn, you might find yourself using words like this as a parent. And that isn’t good—you don’t want your children growing up with similar wounds. This is something I talk about in my book, The Yelling Cure.

But what if I told you that oftentimes, the behavior we're calling out is only temporary, but the messaging can be wired into your child's subconscious for a lifetime.

Would you want to change the way you speak to your kids?

Words Matter for Kids

As adults, we don’t tend to think about where our words come from. However, in knowing now that they’re rooted in things that we picked up—that makes a difference, doesn’t it?

To reframe our words doesn’t only help our child.

It benefits us, too.


When we're caught in a cycle of negatively labeling our child's behavior, it changes the way we see them. More than that, it influences our thoughts, perspectives, and even our attitudes about our child. Words matter for kids!

So you can understand how, if you’re constantly feeling frustration, disappointed, or irked by your child—that is what you will constantly see. And that’s true even when your child is not being those things.

On the other hand, you can reframe your child’s behavior in a positive way ultimately empowering them—and your perspective of them. This not only removes the idea of disapproval from the equation entirely, it can reshape how you see your child and better understand what they are actually feeling and needing. And perhaps best of all, your child will get a more positive picture of who they are when they receive more positive messages!

Isn’t that what we all want for our children? You can learn more in my book, The Yelling Cure.

Reframe With Positivity

So how do you shift your mindset and the words you use to describe your child—especially when your kid is engaging in behaviors that will clearly not benefit them as an adult?

Consider “whining.” And yes, I use quotes around this word!

“Whining” can annoy even the most even-keeled parents. You might be annoyed by this behavior or think that their child just wants to get your attention or is trying to manipulate you.

But consider instead that your child is trying to express her needs—but s/he doesn’t yet have the language skills to express what those are. So she’s frustrated. You may recall from my toddler meltdowns blog that our children often communicate in ways that we don’t consider appropriate. But it’s because they don’t know any better! And it’s your job as a parent to guide them, acting as their emotional coach, helping them understand what they feel and how to express that in a way that is healthy.

Another popular example: Kids that say “no.” As adults, we will often label this behavior as being oppositional or defiant. Maybe you think your child is intentionally being difficult or uncooperative.

So what if you reframed this sentiment as your child is learning to have his or her own voice. S/he is letting you know that s/he has his or her own mind and is becoming an independent person. You can even say, “You’re learning that you have a voice!” Then follow that up by asking, “Why are you saying no?” Do a little digging and find out the reasoning behind the behavior—then work together to find a solution.

What about when the behavior is more serious—biting, pushing, hitting. Oftentimes, this results in parents thinking their child is a tiny monster or mean-spirited. And again, a reminder that thinking this way about your child influences the way you treat them. So even if you’re thinking to yourself, “I’ve never called my child a tiny monster,” you don’t have to. It is reflected in your attitude toward them!

But let’s reframe this behavior—in these instances, our child is often needing something from us. They’ve lost control and they need our empathy and our help. Behaviors like biting and hitting often come from a place of fear. Children know it’s wrong. It’s our job as parents to teach them that in a way that also lets them know that they’re safe and that they’re loved no matter what.

These are only a few examples of how you can reframe your child’s behavior—and use words that set them up to feel strong, empowered, and understood. Remember that by maintaining a calm, reassuring energy in the face of unwanted behaviors as opposed to instantly labeling them as something negative you can help your child grow into an emotionally mature individual. Kind words matter!

About the Author

Robbin is a global parenting expert. In her work as a Certified Parent Coach, she’s helped thousands of families all over the world, find more joy and connection with their kids so they can have the cooperation and relationship they always wanted.

Robbin’s award winning book, The Yelling Cure, is Mompreneur approved, and has sold over 300,000 copies all over the globe. Robbin hosts the podcast, Parenting our Future, where she helps parents navigate the complicated world of raising kids so they thrive! She has brilliant guests who share their expertise in areas such as, Co-Parenting, sleep solutions, raising boys, managing screen time, keeping your family safe, mental health and so much more.

To find out more about Robbin and her work, visit her here:

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