Catholic Activity: Words of Affirmation
The manner in which parents address their child has a lifelong impact on that child's self-image.
A Constant Audience If parents realized how much their children like terms of endearment, they would use them more often. We do not mean a silly, sentimental manner of speaking, but rather a translation into words of the love in a parent's heart. Too often a father or mother speaks gruffly or curtly to a child. He or she certainly does not mean to use the short-tempered approach, but in the stress of everyday affairs, the child is shunted aside. However, the habit of being soft-spoken can be cultivated. Actually, it is almost as easy as speaking in a sharp, strident way, and it is so much more beneficial to everyone concerned, including the speaker.
At home parents are compelled to act before a constant audience. It is a critical audience, at once sensitive and imitative. The children most likely will use the same expressions, phrases, and tones which their parents employ.
A Good Child A mother might say: "Patty, please bring me my sewing basket, like a good child." The words may come naturally through habit, but the child does not fail to respond to them. The mother who can casually say, "like a good child," has placed her little daughter in her mind as just that. The child thinks of herself in those terms.
Children depend on their parents in forming opinions of themselves. Sometimes tragic harm is done to a child who believes himself or herself a failure because it seems impossible to please Mother or rather. Parents do not intend to cause such distress; but, if they are overexacting and overcritical, the child may acquire a feeling of inferiority which can prevent the development of initiative. It is better for the child to strive and make mistakes than not to try at all.
Activity Source: From Stroller to School, Parent-Educator Series 2, Leaflets 13-24, Three to Six Years by Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, 1962