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Your Healthy Family: Phrase swaps to boost kids' confidence

Posted at 8:25 AM, Sep 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-14 08:25:59-04

Kids hear a lot of things throughout their childhood that seem subtle, but can have big impacts on their growth. Some experts say simply changing the way they think and talk about themselves can make a difference.

Beth Gaskill, an educator who specializes in early childhood learning and is CEO of Big City Readers, said the difference between how your kids see the world and themselves can start with a few simple words.

"There's this phrase, 'How we talk to kids becomes their own inner voice.' So we want to make sure that we are modeling how to have that inner voice that is positive and encouraging and tells us that we can try new things," she said.

Gaskill said there are some confidence-building phrase swaps to make, to boost your child's self esteem.

1. Instead of saying "I can't do it," say" I can't do it yet"

"If your child says 'I can't read,' you could say, 'Yeah, you can't do that yet. You're still growing.' Or, 'I can't tie my own shoes,' you can say, 'You can't tie your shoes yet. Remember when you couldn't put your coat on? And now you do it by yourself every day," she said.

She said that tiny shift puts kids immediately into a growth mindset.

2. Stop asking "What was your favorite part of your day?"

"If we use the superlative of 'What was your favorite?' or 'What was the best?' It can feel so overwhelming that they're like, 'I don't know,' and they can't pick anything," Gaskill said.

She said it can make kids shut down because it’s ‘too big.’ She said to instead ask "What's something you don't want to forget?"

"Then that starts to make them think about so many different parts. They're looking at themselves with endless possibilities," she said.

3. Instead of saying "sound it out," say "stretch it out"

"You put a word in front of a child, like the word is 'cat,' and you say, 'Sound it out,' but we are telling them to look at letters not sounds," Gaskill said.

She says that can be frustrating for new readers because they don't have enough understanding of sounds as they relate to letters. Instead she says to stretch out the word.

"Let's say the word 'cat.' I'm not showing them the word 'cat.' I say the word 'cat' and I stretch it, and then we hear all of those sounds," she said. "We're going to look at it and stretch out the word together."