Thursday, August 29, 2013

Disapprovals vs. Affirmations

I'm pretty sure most decent parenting books advise making positive statements over negative statements. For example, instead of "Don't be so loud," say "Please be quiet." Instead of "Stop running," say "Please walk." I admit, this is something with which I still struggle.

Then I got a little kick in the pants reminder from a chapter on language development in Einstein Never Used Flashcards.

"So parents speak to children in what researchers term "disapprovals," while other use more "affirmations." Disapprovals are negative statements such as "No," or "Don't do that," or "stop that." They close off conversation rather than engage children in talk. On the other hand, affirmations include praise, as in "Good job!" and encouragement, "Let's try that again," and compliments, "You really did that well!"

.... When researchers looked at the differences in sheer number of disapprovals and affirmations, their findings were shocking. The average child from a professional family heard 32 affirmations and 5 disapprovals per hour- a ratio of 6 to 1. Those from the working class heard roughly 12 affirmations and 7 disapprovals- a ratio of 2 to 1. In stark contrast, this pattern flipped for children from welfare homes. They received 5 affirmations and 11 disapprovals per hour, for a ratio of 1 to 2.

The effect of these differences and the messages they send to language-learning children cannot be underscored enough. The professional children are being rewarded for talking- the welfare children are not. They are being taught to follow commands. The professional and working-class children are being encouraged and praised, while the welfare children are being told things that cannot help their self-esteem."

5-11 disapprovals PER HOUR? Can you imagine if someone in your life were saying something negative to you every 20 minutes? Or even worse, every 6 minutes? Can you imagine how it must feel to have no choice in whether you live with this negativity or not? Children can't leave a situation the same way we can leave a job or relationship. I'll definitely be more mindful of my word choices from now on.

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