6 Emotionally Sensitive Responses We Can Give to Children

· July 13, 2017

Whatever children are like, it is extremely important to give emotionally sensitive responses to negative comments they make about themselves. Above all, when they speak about themselves in the first person, they give us a glimpse of their level of self-efficacy.

In other words, we cannot ignore their day to day comments such as “I can’t,” “I’m going to do it wrong,” “Why bother,” or “I’ll get embarrassed.” “there is nothing interesting to do,” because these have an important undercurrent that could be a reflection of low self-esteem.

Knowing how to resolve these situations can help us build a wholesome affection and a thoughtful disposition from the tender years of infancy. Therefore, by being aware of how important it is to never ignore a feeling, we can use a series of responses that can help them re-think harmful assertions. Let us see some examples:

1. “I can’t do it,” the Crown Jewel

Saying “I can’t do it” is the crown jewel because many of us have included it in our internal dialogue (sometimes even external), since we were very young.

This is a catch-all phrase that can denote tiredness, lack of energy, apathy and little self-confidence. We tend to respond by saying “yes you can” sometimes accompanied by horrific catch-phrases such as “don’t talk nonsense” or “don’t be lazy.


How can we help them question that thought or attitude? First of all, note that many times the best way to do this is by responding with a question such as this:

What do you mean by “I can’t?” What proof do you have that you really can’t? How do you know if you don’t even try? Do you think that saying, “I can’t” helps you or hurts you? Do not say “I can’t,” say “It will cost me, but I can do it.”

2. I don’t feel like it. I won’t do it.

Reluctance and disinterest in certain tasks is normal at certain moments. It may seem hopeless, but they need to understand that there are certain tasks that must be completed for their own good.

The best way to support them in asking these questions is by sending them the following message: don’t say “I don’t feel like it so I am not going to do it,” instead say, “I am going to do it, even though I don’t feel like it right now.”

After all, it is all about planting questions like “What would happen if we all did only what we felt like doing at the moment? Should we never do something we don’t feel like doing? Can you imagine a world where no one made an effort at all? Can you imagine if a driver got tired of respecting the rules of the road? Or if a doctor got tired of healing others?” These types of questions will help them reflect on their reluctance and change their attitude. 

3. “I don’t want to do it because I am embarrassed.”

When you think about it, laughing at someone’s embarrassment is a cruel thing to do. If we laugh at a feeling that could cause a certain amount of suffering, we are making fun of their emotional vulnerability. We should give a sense of security that makes it very clear that it is not better for no one to take notice, but rather to let people see so that they can help and empathize.

4. “I am tired/sad/angry.”

Denying their feelings and emotional reactions is a grave mistake that we make, partly because it is normal for us. This isn’t so strange because, since we were children we have heard people responding to tears saying, “don’t cry, there is nothing wrong.” There are emotional expressions that are embarrassing to most of society, but denying them is shutting down something very important, both in children and in adults.

5. Do not label them as “clumsy,” “bad,” or “dumb”

This does not help to promote a healthy self-esteemWhen the child does something wrong there are many ways to tell him: it is not right to hit your brothers, you do not have to break your toys or you have to put forth a little more effort studying math.

6. But neither do you want to sound “smart,” “good” or “intelligent”

A child will not understand on what it is based if you speak to them in that manner. Instead, you could say: you have done your homework so well, you have done so good cleaning up or I love watching you paint. That is to say, we can judge their behavior but we cannot judge the child. 

Remember that if we want to reach them we need to have an appropriate tone of voice and never launch an attack. Speaking affectionately and in a sympathetic tone is the basis of a good upbringing and great learning discoveries. Remember that it is from us that they get a psychological model so we should take the reins of their education responsibly.