Why I Tell My Kids When They Are Good

Aug14 70blog

Earlier this year, I went to listen to a dental lecture on communicating with children.  I was expecting something that I could apply to my job as a dental hygienist - how to talk to kids to reduce their fears of the dentist, etc.

Instead the course ended up being more about a parenting philosophy that was . . . shall we say, interesting.

There are so many things that I could say about what was said in that course, but the main point that I think the speaker was trying to make is that it's important to get kid's to evaluate their own behavior (okay, I can live with that).

Where it gets interesting is when the speaker said that you shouldn't come out and say what "good" behavior actually is.  Instead you should deal with their behavior in one of two ways - either you should describe the situation or their behavior without making any "judgement" on it one way or the other and let them come to their own conclusions, or you should describe it in terms of the feelings you have about the child's behavior.


"Oh Johnny, I feel so happy when you take out the trash!"

Child does well on a test  - "You must feel so happy, you tried so hard."

"Johnny, I get frustrated when you hit your sister."

According to the speaker, you should under no circumstances use the word "good" (or "bad").  Things like "good job", and "I am so proud of you" are off limits, because these comments either 1) make a judgement about the child's behavior (which you shouldn't do, because no one likes to feel judged), or 2) they "steal" the pride your child should feel in themselves.

I have a problem with this kind of thinking on so many levels, but the biggest issue I see with this is the inability to help your child establish the difference between what is right (i.e. "good"), and what is wrong (ie. "bad" or "not good").

Of course I want my child to be able to evaluate their own behavior to determine whether it is acceptable or not.  But with this philosophy, I'm teaching my child to base their actions on how it makes others (or themselves) feel.

So what happens when their friends want them to do something wrong?  Your child has been taught to act in a way that keeps others happy - if it will make their friends happy or proud of them, there is no reason they shouldn't go along with the shenanigans.

What happens when your child decides something that is wrong makes them feel good?  Why shouldn't they do it if it makes them feel happy, accomplished, etc?

Kids need a more solid basis for right behavior than feelings, or they will find themselves lost.

I have no problem telling my child when they do something right (i.e. "good"), or when they do something that is wrong.   I'm not teaching them these things because it will make me "happy" when they do right (even though it will), or it will make me "frustrated" when they do wrong.

I'm teaching them these things because I don't make the rules.  "Good" and "bad" behavior isn't based on emotions - it is based on what God says is right and wrong.  I want what is going to be best for my kids, not what is going to make them feel good.

I don't want their behavior based on what will make me (or them) happy or unhappy.  I want them to think of their behavior in terms of what makes God happy.

I want them to come to know Jesus as their Savior, and to desire to act in a way that is pleasing to Him. When they are young, they will need me to guide them on that - to teach them what good behavior is based on what God says in His word.  They're not going to figure that out based on their own feelings - because you know what, sometimes wrong actions feel good.  I have no problem opening my Bible and reading what it says to my kids, letting them know that this is how we know what is right and wrong.

They will still (with God's help) eventually get to the point where they can evaluate their own behavior and make good choices.  But it will be more solid, because they won't be pulled back and forth by the whims of their own or others' feelings.  They will have the Bible to stand on; they will have Jesus, their Savior, to look to as an example.

That is what I want for my kids.  That is what I pray for.

And I'm still disappointed because I never even got to learn any tips for dealing with children's dental fears!  Oh well.
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Meghan said...

Great insights Callie! I agree with you whole heartedly! Thanks for sharing.

The Clem Family said...

Wow! I couldn't disagree with that speaker more. As a parent, I don't want my boys to think they can control my emotions with their behavior. I can tell it has an impact on my kids when I tell them I am proud of them or tell them they made good choices and same for if they make poor choices. With my oldest, I do use the phrase "you must be so pleased" or "you must be so proud" when he does something really good at school, but I don't let a 3 and 5 year old get to decide what makes a good/bad choice based on how they feel. Crazy!

Melanie said...

So true!!!! Just because something feels good or makes someone else happy doesn't mean it's right..or "good"..especially in God's eyes. This is something that the whole world needs to see!!

The Crummy Chronicles said...

Yep I completely agree with you. Although I try not to ever label "people" themselves as good or bad- behavior and choices definitely are! The current parenting trends usually leave me scratching my head. Sometimes I understand why these philosophies were thought of but they never seem to line up with what God says nor do they prepare the child for the world we live in.

I don't see many children in our office (I'm a RDH in public health) but I have encountered some with dental fears. Usually the more I show them and explain things on their terms the better. Starting the appointment with letting them pick a few things out (like the prophy paste/ varnish flavor) I think gives them a sense of control and a "hey this might be fun!" feeling. I think the sounds of the handpiece and suction are the scariest things. I usually show them both and explain both before I lay them back in the chair so they can hear and see them. Of course I have no idea how long you have been a hygienist and you might already implement all of these things but just thought I would throw them out there :)

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