Speaking to Children with Respect

Non-empathetic responses that contribute to feelings of low self-worth in children.

Last week we began discussing teaching children to respect themselves and others. Monday we started discussing how children react to being yelled at or criticized. Yesterday, Anne Merchant Geissler, nanny educator and the author of The Child Care Textbook and The Nanny Textbook, explained how the verbal environment makes or breaks a child’s self-worth.

To continue the discussion, Merchant Geissler suggests reading Full Esteem Ahead by Diane Loomans. The author writes about some common non-empathetic responses that contribute to feelings of low self-worth in children. These common responses are:

“Stop that ridiculous fussing! Do you want our company to think you are a baby?”
The result of shaming is that the child is judged and labeled and may feel anger and shame.

“There’s nothing to be sad about. You’re blowing this way out of proportion. Dry those tears right now.”
The result of discounting the child’s feelings causes children to feel frustrated, angry, or doubt his/her own feelings and reality.

“Come on, let’s play with the dog until the company arrives.”
The child is distracted and may feel puzzled or confused.

“If you are polite while the company is visiting, I’ll take you for some ice cream later.”
The child is likely to feel confused or frustrated.

“I’ll give you something to really cry about if you don’t stop this nonsense!”
The child is threatened with violence, and most likely feels scared or angry.

“Go to your room and stay there. I don’t want to see you when you act this way.”
The result is that the child is isolated and feels lonely, scared, or sad.

Through practice and conscious attention, you can learn to avoid these common mistakes and replace them with a positive and productive approach.

Do you ever find yourself making these type of comments?

Full Esteem Ahead: 100 Ways to Build Self-Esteem in Children and Adults


  1. I am completly humiliated that I have used all of these commands at some point. In fact, distracting is probably my number one faux pas. Good info I will concentrate on.

  2. If you wouldn't say it with the parents there than do not say it! That's the best gauge. And if the parents use these commands or embarrassing statements just keep using a more positive approach they may learn from your example too.Dena, Nanny for 8 yrs, Chicago Suburbs

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