Write me: rebecca@positive-parents.org

I hear parents all the time pleading with and warning their children to “be good.” This common phrase has escaped my lips a few times, too. There are a couple of reasons why I’ve decided to drop this phrase for good.

“Be Good” is Too Vague
Children aren’t mind readers. It’s much more helpful to give them specific instructions than to assume they know exactly what we mean by “be good.” It’s a very abstract concept for children, even if we think they should know what behavior we expect.

Instead of saying “be good,” try:
“When you’re at grandma’s, I want you to pick up your toys when you’re finished playing and listen when she asks you to do something.”

“At the store, you may help me push the cart or walk beside it. You may not run in the aisles or ask for a toy today.”

“In the movie theater, be quiet while the movie is playing and don’t put your feet on the seats.”

“Be good…because usually you’re not.”
I wonder if this isn’t the underlying message that children pick up on when this phrase is overused. I always try to put myself in my child’s shoes. I think hearing “be good” all the time would make me feel like perhaps my parent doesn’t think I’m a good person. If I was, I wouldn’t need the constant reminder, right?

What if my husband told me to “be good today” before he left for work? How would that make me feel? What is the message I would get from it?

I believe one of the most important things we can do for our children is to believe in them, and show our faith in their goodness, abilities, and positive intentions. Here is a huge lesson I’ve learned – When children feel good, they will be good, and knowing that we believe the best of them is one way to build their self-esteem and help them feel good.