How we speak to our kids—which words we use, how we frame an issue—can greatly affect their personalities, opinions of themselves and their ethical compasses.
Okay, it’s not exactly Man Bites Dog, but this recent New York Times article, “Raising A Moral Child,” offers some fascinating insight and advice. For example; when praising a positive action, praise the child (“You’re a good kid.”), but when criticizing a negative action, condemn the act (“Robbing a liquor store is bad.”).
The article also examines the difference between shame and guilt. Again, it comes down to speaking about the person or the behavior. Shame is when the person (kid) feels bad about themselves, a situation to avoid. Guilt is when the person (kid) feels bad about a behavior, something much easier to correct and less likely to do permanent self-esteem damage.
The article cites a number of interesting research studies that back up these and other claims. Forgive the oversimplification here, and enjoy this fascinating article.