How Do Negative Comments Affect a Child's Behavior?

As you strive to teach and encourage positive behavior from a child, it’s common to experience struggles and challenges. Exercise caution if you find that frustration leads you to make negative comments about your child’s behavior. Dr. William Sears, author and renowned pediatrician, warns that negative comments can have a detrimental effect on children.

Negative Comments

A barrage of negative comments can chip away at a child’s self-concept and self-worth, states Dr. Sears. In fact, persistent negative comments – often called “nattering” – may even make your child’s behavior worse instead of better. A child may become nervous as a result of the negative comments, leading her to make more mistakes. As a child’s self-concept dives, the child may become unable or unwilling to maintain good behavior simply because she feels defeated. The SOS Programs website warns that nattering may weaken a parent-child relationship.

Additional Resulting Behaviors

Frequent negative comments can have another effect on a child’s behavior as well. In an article entitled “Parenting Practices and Child Disruptive Behavior Problems in Early Elementary School,” authors suggest that nattering may lead to children ignoring the comments 2. This ignoring could result in passive noncompliance – a child intentionally withholding compliance in anger. Another behavior possibility could even be aggressive defiance where the child displays aggression toward the nattering parent.

Negative Attention

Children crave parental attention, positive or negative. If a child has difficulty getting positive attention from parents, he may resort to seeking negative attention instead, warns the Virginia Cooperative Extension. A child may intentionally misbehave to try to motivate any response from the parent, even if he anticipates that the parent will respond with negative comments. You can stop this negative circle of behavior by changing the way you respond to your child.

Turning it Positive

Once a negative pattern of parenting begins, it may feel difficult to make positive changes. By examining parenting practices and ascertaining where negative parenting patterns exist, parents can change parenting habits. Children need to feel unconditional love from parents, even in the midst of negative behaviors, states the University of Minnesota Extension. If children only feel negative reinforcement coming from parents, they may have difficulty behaving positively. Instead, work to show children positive encouragement by finding behaviors that you can praise. The more positive reinforcement and praise you offer children, the better behavior often becomes. Seek professional parenting advice and counseling if you need help making positive changes.

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