Labeling Kids as “Kind”

May 4th, 2010 by Dionna | 32 Comments
Posted in Consensual Living, Gentle/Positive Discipline, Just for Fun/Miscellaneous, My Family, natural parenting, Respond with Sensitivity

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In the past several weeks, Tom and I have gotten in the habit of using the word “kind” when describing actions and interactions with Kieran. For example:

  • Kieran hands his friend a toy. We comment, “oh that was kind, Kieran!”
  • Kieran grabs a toy from his friend, the friend cries hysterically. We comment, “Kieran, let’s be kind to your friend. If you’d like the toy, why don’t you ask for a turn?”

Those are simplistic/generic examples, but you get the gist. The “kind” label has grated on my nerves since it entered our vocabulary. But I never stopped to think about why I didn’t like it, and I didn’t do anything to change it.

Until I heard Kieran using it to describe his own actions and to seek approval. Several times Kieran has done something (yes, something “kind”) and then looked at me: “mama, Kieran kind? That kind!”

It really weighed on my heart.

2010-04-13 02

But Isn’t Being Kind a Good Thing?

Conventional parenting might raise its collective eyebrows at my dilemma: why would I not want my child to internalize “kindness,” and even more, to want to be kind? Let me give you a couple of my reasons, then I’d love to open this up for debate.

1) I want Kieran to know that I love him unconditionally: I do not want to attach a value judgment to Kieran’s character whenever he performs an action – good or bad. When he hears “that was kind” or “that was not kind,” he’s not going to just equate the action with the label – he will try that label on for size to see if it fits him.

Moreover, when we label something as “kind” or “unkind” – or to take it a step further, “good” or “bad” – a child might hear us saying “I like (love) you when you are kind/good. I do not like (love) you when you are not kind/bad.”

I love Kieran. Period. I love him when he is laughing, when he is sad and sobbing, when he is frustrated and kicking, when he is angry and screaming. I love him regardless of whether he hits his friends. I love him whether he does or does not pick up his toys. My goal is that he know without a doubt that I love him at all times.

Calling him “bad,” withdrawing my affection, lecturing him for being “unkind,” those do not convey unconditional love. And don’t kid yourself that children understand the concept of “unconditional love” or “I love you even when I’m angry/punishing you.” Children don’t have those cognitive skills yet.

But (my dear husband and conventional parenting wisdom argue) how are you supposed to teach a child values and social niceties without labeling things as “good” or “bad”? That brings me to my second point.

2) Kieran does not need me to label his actions in order to “learn”: let’s go back to the example of Kieran taking his friend’s toy. Here are two ways I could deal with it:

  • I could point out that he was not kind in grabbing the toy. I could even take it away and tell him that we need to give it back so that the other child will be happy; or
  • I could mirror what Kieran was feeling – I could focus on his needs. “You really wanted that car. You wanted it even though Joshua had it. You were frustrated that Joshua wouldn’t give it to you.” (Kieran says “yes” angrily and watches Joshua cry.) “It is frustrating when two people want to play with one thing. Joshua – I’m sorry that Kieran took that toy. Here, let me get you this blue car. Kieran, when you are done with the red car, will you please give Joshua another turn?”

Kieran does not need me to hammer the point home that he wasn’t “kind.” It is apparent in the tears streaming down his friend’s face. He sees me address his needs (showing him unconditional love even in the face of the typical toddler storm), and he sees me address his friend’s needs. He even sees me apologize, which our society practically demands.

Calling his action “unkind” only serves to shame him further. He already feels ashamed – or at least scared and upset – because of the reaction he elicited from his friend.

I’ve tried this both ways. And in my experience, the more neutral and loving I am, the less shame I make Kieran feel, the more likely he is to turn over the toy – to try to soothe his friend’s tears. My loving response gives him the freedom to choose to be “kind”; it is not coerced.

And really, do you want your child to feel pressure or coercion to be kind? Or do you just want her to be kind for kindness’s sake?

What Say You?

I’m interested in what you all have to say. Tom and I had a discussion about this over dinner, and his point was that “your reactions, whether you label them as ‘kind’ or not, are telling him he is kind or not kind.”

To an extent, I can see his point and agree with the sentiment. But I really feel like there is a difference between observing what is going on, loving your child through any situation, and giving her room to make her own choices – and the alternative – labeling her actions as “kind” or “unkind” and pressuring her to act in a certain way.

Yes, both ways are going to impart elements of social graces, “right and wrong,” things that we approve of and disapprove of. And that’s ok! That’s learning.

But do we have to label in order for our children to learn?

And maybe I should clarify here before anyone makes the generalization: no, I’m not saying that we should never use the words “kind” or “nice” when talking to their children. Please don’t go to that extreme. I’m just talking about using the words too much (which is what I think we did since our two year old suddenly became worried about whether anything he did was “kind”).

Discuss!

32 Responses to:
"Labeling Kids as “Kind”"

  1. I actually specifically avoid words like ‘kind’ and ‘nice’ because I feel they push a type of behavior I am not interested in encouraging my daughter towards. I think I might feel differently with a boy. When girls are told to be kind and nice they are told that other people matter more than them and they should be self-effacing and generally ignore their own needs.

    In contrast we talk about being polite. And there are times when being polite is not necessary. My daughter is turning two in a couple of weeks and she is precociously verbal–she already has a remarkable grasp of when politeness is good. If someone is taking something from her or hitting her I don’t think she has to be polite when she says, “Stop! I don’t like that!” I don’t think that requires a please because the other person is over the line to begin with. She gets to be forceful in protecting her physical boundaries. We talk about how when she wants something from someone else they are more likely to give it to her if she is polite–not that they *always* will, but people are more likely to honor a polite request.

    I feel like all of society is going to try hard to push her into being ‘nice’ because she is going to be a girl. I’m not always particularly nice, but I am polite. It means I am frequently labeled as a b***h because I am not self effacing and I think my needs are just as important as anyone elses. I think that is the healthier choice.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Krissy that is a really interesting take on it re: gender. There are so many things I don’t think about having a boy (and heck – I’m female)! You’re right though, I have read a lot of studies about how girls are culturally conditioned to be “nice,” “sweet,” etc. I would feel the same way you do.

  2. Annie @ PhD in Parenting   phdinparenting

    Rather than labeling my child’s behaviour, I like to try to describe how it makes the other person feel. I want my children to know that I love them unconditionally, but I also want to teach them to consider other people’s feelings.

    So instead of saying: “oh that was kind, Kieran”, I might say “Michael looks really happy that you shared your toy with him”.

    Instead of saying: “Kieran, let’s be kind to your friend. If you’d like the toy, why don’t you ask for a turn?”, I might say: “Kieran, look at how upset Michael is that you grabbed the toy away from him” and maybe reinforce it by asking Kieran to think about how he feels when someone grabs a toy from him.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Annie – I definitely agree with this. I think it’s a great way to help children learn abstract things (like emotions). I sometimes wait until later – in the moment we might be too close to a meltdown ourselves for it to be a learning experience.

  3. Excellent post Dionna! I think this is one of the harder parts of unconditional/gentle parenting. It is easy (ish) to get people to see past the negatives of punishment but when you tell them that praise can undermine your intentions they look at me like I’m crazy! I like the option of reflecting what you observe he is feeling. Or (maybe when he’s older) asking him how that made him feel.

    This idea that labeling, even with “good” labels, is dear to my heart. I”m the “smart” one. Sounds good, right? It was hard in school sometimes to find my place. When you are good a “school” especially science and math it is just assumed that is what you should do with your life. I think this make for some very unhappy people. I’m glad I realized early on that I needed a more creative career. I still have to struggle with being overly critical of myself and reliant on external validation of my own self worth. I don’t want Aellyn to need the assurance of others to feel right in her own skin.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      I agree Paige. It’s definitely coming from the background of reading (and agreeing) with Kohn (and similar – have you read NurtureShock? I just reserved it!).
      The studies about “good job” and motivations for “doing well” really stick with me.

  4. Sarah

    Sharing, such a touchy subject. I’ve found every parent has their own rules about what is and isn’t good sharing etiquette. At one playgroup I even had another mom come over and take a toy away from Ella because her child wanted it and ‘In their house they share’. That didn’t sit well with me – and Ella got her toy back promptly.

    We do use labeling words – for the actions. When Ella hands over the last tomato to Agatha without Agatha asking for it, we tell her “Wow look at Agatha smile, she’s so happy, when you handed the tomato you choose to be generous.” We say similar things for most behaviours. But we are very clear, good behaviour doesn’t mean more love. This AM both girls were fighting over one basket, so I handed them a second basket lol then they fought over the second basket, and forgot the first. Ella wanted it, Agatha had it. In our home, for better or worse, a person is not allowed to take something from someone else without permission. So when Ella tried to take the basket I said “No.” We then talked about things she could do to try to convince Agatha to give her the toy. I also talked to Agatha about how Ella would smile if she shared. Agatha never shared and Ella was angry.

    So Ella came into my lap, and we talked about how I’d feel if I wanted something and didn’t get it, we talked about how she felt, and we talked about how Agatha may feel when Ella was trying tot take the toy. Ella then came up with a couple new ideas for asking for the basket, promptly bombarding Agatha with all of Ella’s favorite toys, and Agatha handed the basket over.

    I then talked to Agatha about how sharing helped Ella feel happy. It was generous of her to share her new basket. Agatha grinned, and promptly started trying to trade all of Ella’s toys back for the basket. And the whole thing started over. But this time they worked together to figure it out, and didn’t need as much input from me.

    It took a long time, a lot of crying, a lot of hugging. But both girls were allowed to want the toy. Each girl was allowed to be sad, or angry. They were not allowed to take the toy without permission, and they were not allowed to hurt the other person. I will sit there and hold onto one of them if they are trying to hurt someone. I will talk to them about what is allowed and what isn’t. i.e. “You may not hit, you may stomp your feet to show how angry you are, you may shout, you may not hit. Lets practice stomping our feet.”

    In other words, I do label, but I have never had a problem with either girl seeking out confirmation of good behaviour. But they do know the words for their actions, and for their feelings. It makes it a lot easier to help them figure out what needs to be done.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      See, I think a lot of labeling is ok – how else is a child supposed to learn what “generous” is if they’re not given real life examples?! So I’m with you on that. I guess it comes down to being *over* used, and being overused in such a way that it’s more of a reflection on the child than it is on the action. I could also see a problem if you used it a lot with one sibling, but never with the other – how big of a statement would it be to the 2nd child if she was never told “you are so kind!” (or generous, etc.)

      I’m also aware that around this age (that Kieran’s at – although I thought it started a little later), that toddlers become very concerned with their parents’ emotions. “That make you happy, mama?” Things like that, so maybe “mama, I kind?” is along those same developmental lines. I’ll have to do some reading.

  5. DT

    I’ll have to think about the word “kind” and get back to you. I do a similar thing with the phrase, “I’m proud of you.” I hardly ever say it because I feel that it signifies that without the action that I’m praising (and thus made me proud), I would not be proud of that person regardless.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      I agree DT – maybe specify “I’m proud of the hard work you did” or “I’m proud of the big effort you made”?
      I think a lot of words lose their power when overused. “Good job” is high on that list in our cultural lexicon – ugh.

  6. Parsnip Milkdud

    I wish someone would be kind enough to explain to me why that woman is holding that typewriter sideways.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      My theory is that she’s getting ready to throw it, a la Office Space.

      • Parsnip Milkdud

        Well in this age of computers if I was forced to use a typewriter I would contemplate throwing it too!

        I must admit I wish this wasn’t just a theory… I really want to know!

      • Dionna   CodeNameMama

        Well Tom contacted her to get permission to use the picture. If you click on it, you can find the Flickr link – why don’t you message her and ask her?!

  7. I just got off topic here, but I noticed that the other Sarah said she tells her girls “no”

    Dionna, do you tell Kieran “no”? When I was doing daycare I was told we were not to use the word no with the kids. I worked with 1 year olds and sometimes I felt like I needed to say no, with an older child I will explain, no problem, but when someone has their hand raised to hit, sometimes a quick no is needed to stop it, then follow up with “it hurts our friends when we hit”

    I’m wondering how you feel about this?

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      I think the theory behind not saying “no” is that parents (and childcare providers) use the word too much, until the child (usually the toddler) is immune to it. It just becomes background noise. If you followed a kid around all day telling her what she CAN’T do, you’d be saying no all day long. “No” also doesn’t teach the child anything or convey information. Heck, a child might not even know what you’re saying “no” about if they have no experience with whatever it is they’re about to do!
      Typical toddler situation: baby is standing up in the bathtub. Do you just yell “no” at him? No! Instead, “Kieran, please sit down right now. (sits) Thank you – we sit in the bath tub because the water makes it slippery. Standing up might make you slip and fall in the tub. I need you to be safe and sit in the bath tub.”
      I’m not opposed to saying “no” in certain situations – if he’s about to hurt himself or someone else, if he’s getting into something dangerous, etc. And the nice thing is that because it’s not overused in our house, he *responds* to “no.” He can tell there’s something wrong when I say it.

  8. I think the previous commenters pretty much have it wrapped up, but just to reiterate, I think it is the evaluation and judgement that we assign to a behavior that is the problem, and to an extent our jumping in to solve our child’s problems. It seems to me that using language that describes the behavior, and articulating the child’s feelings could leave open more possibility for the child solving his own problem.

    For example, when Kieran takes Joshua’s toy, you might say something like “Boy, you sure do want that toy, Kieran. Joshua, you really want that toy too. I see you are very upset because Kieran took that toy from you. Hmm, we only have one toy, and both of you want it. What are we going to do? Can you help think of a solution?”

    Then if the solution they agree to is Kieran giving back the toy, I don’t know that you need to label the action as good or kind or anything else. Just a simple “I’m so glad that you solved this problem and you are both happy now” might suffice. Mostly because the children might choose a different solution than the parent – perhaps Joshua decides he doesn’t want that toy after all and Kieran gets to keep it. Is he unkind or not nice, even if both kids are still happy with the outcome?

    We as parents feel a lot of social pressure, particularly in front of other parents, to be seen as actively teaching social niceties to our children and ‘forcing’ children to share because it is the social norm. This seems to be the case even if children don’t seem to mind if a toy is taken away. If there’s no problem, I tend to think there’s no need to intervene at all. Although, I am guilty myself of ‘unnecessary’ intervention at playgroup. ::blush:: I think children will learn these things naturally because people are social animals and will want to integrate with other children and make friends. They will learn by logical consequences – if I take things from this person, this person will not want to play with me again.

    Sounds good in theory anyway. ;)

  9. Amber   AmberStrocel

    I am up-to-speed on unconditional and non-coercive parenting, and in general I would say that’s my own style. However, I also think that kids need respectful limits and boundaries, and they need to understand when they’ve crossed them. Sometimes, we need to actively intervene to make that so.

    I have now had 2 toddlers who hit me and laughed. At their age, they haven’t yet developed empathy. They don’t really understand that other people have feelings, and no amount of talking on my part is going to speed that process along. They will develop empathy in their own time, regardless of my words. In that case, there is no natural consequence or deterrent that will lead to the kid NOT hitting me, especially because unlike another toddler I won’t retaliate. Some kind of parental boundaries may become necessary, and avoiding labels becomes difficult.

    It’s interesting to me that there are labels I have no concerns with. For example, safe/unsafe. Hot/cold. Gentle/not gentle. Those labels are devoid of value judgments, and I feel they’re OK. But good/bad smacks of a value judgment. So I think that the issue is really less labels in general, and more about value judgments. I think we can use labels in neutral ways, as long as we strive to avoid casting value judgments on our children. At heart, that is what this type of parenting is about.

  10. Sarah

    I really enjoy reading everyone’s views.

    I have to say first, I rarely say ‘NO’. we have a yes house. The kids are not allowed to jump on the recliner – it isn’t safe. They also cannot bang on my curio cabinet – again safety and money is involved there. Otherwise, they are not allowed to hurt someone else. Otherwise there isn’t really anything I say No to. We have a lot of interesting situations occur everyday. But most of the time if I say something it’ll be along the lines of” “When you climb on the chairs like that, I’m concerned you may fall and get hurt.” Then let the girls decide for themselves what they’re gonna do. Sometimes that involves bumps and bruises and tears. But they’re easy to console when they got to figure out the lesson on their own.

    Also I only ever intervene when tears happen. Then the girls are not able to figure something out on their own. If Agatha takes a toy from Ella nd Ella goes on to something else (Or vice versa) then there’s no point in me jumping in and creating a problem. But if Agatha pulls Ella’s hair I jump in and prevent WWIII (and yes, it would escalate with our two : ) I say “No, you may not pull hair. If you want Ella’s attention try touching her hand and saying Ella talk to me.” That’s often all that is needed, but something is needed.

    • I just feel a little justified that I did use the word “no” sometimes. I wasn’t constantly screaming no at the kids, honestly, if I did that, my classroom would have been chaotic. Generally when I said No, I also said “No thank you!” No was reserved for times when quick reactions were needed because no would make them stop and look at what was happening.

      We had a bookshelf in our classroom that they all really liked to climb on, but it wasn’t sturdy and fell over on them if they tried, so I had a set of climbing mats out that were always out for them to climb on and whenever they started to climb on the bookshelf I’d say “The only place we climb is on the mats!” Oddly enough they started to hear that so often I’d catch some of the kids that were almost two escorting their smaller friends from the shelf to the mats saying “We only climb on the mats!”

      They just made me feel like a monster at the daycare that I EVER used the word No, I consider Dionna to be a pretty badass parent, and most of the people that would comment here probably parent a lot like her, so I’m glad to see you guys wouldn’t ostracize me if you saw me use the word no! :)

  11. Kez

    We talk about ‘virtues’ as things that we would like to do. So we discuss the idea of ‘practicing kindness’, for example. I feel that this is a way to talk about it with a little distance between the child (or adult) and the behavior, so that we are clear that a person can choose to practice kindness, rather than being or not being kind. The same with less positively regarded traits, eg instead of saying ‘x is shy’ we might mention that he is ‘feeling shy today’ so that shyness is just another feeling that we sometimes have, rather than something that is wrong with the child.
    We also try to follow Alfie Kohn’s suggestion of focusing on the effect of behavior, such as how it’s making the other person feel.

  12. Anne

    I walk away from a couple of your recent blogs with this feeling that Kieran runs your household. I’m sorry but I don’t see what is gained in letting him keep the car he took from his friend. In a roundabout way, isn’t this rewarding his behavior? Sure, he made his friend cry, but he still got his way, with no repercussions. What about when he’s older, and all the kids see him as some kind of bully, because he gets what he wants, when he wants it, regardless if the hurt that he inflicts on his “friends”?

    And regarding your story in your other post about the dandelion popper. What parents in their right minds allow their toddler to play with a sharp object? Good thing Tom was wearing glasses, or he could have lost an eye. I’d love to hear what “gentle” discussion, or fun little game, you have with Kieran when you’re waiting for an ambulance to arrive because he gouged someone’s eye out… or maybe his own.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Anne – my reply got so lengthy it has turned into its own post. I plan to post it on Monday.

    • Sarah

      I have to say both my not quite 2 year old and my 3.5 year old use knives at the table, they use weeders in the garden, spades, shovels, rakes – no axes yet, but then we don’t have one anyway. They also have their own hammers and screwdrivers. The likelihood of them hurting someone else is actually pretty small. And if it does happen it wouldn’t be intentional. So if someone needed to go to the emergency room would I scold my child for making a mistake? Nope. Would I comfort her for that mistake and talk about what would happen to the other person, yep. And in the future that mistake wouldn’t likely happen again. Plus she’d still know we love her and respect her and are willing to let her make mistakes in order to learn.

    • Rebecca

      Ok, so, apparently, I need to google dandelion popper, because I assumed that he just did the “one two three off with its head thing” that all kids do to behead dandelions.

      And count me on the bad parent train here for letting my child play with sharp objects. Amelia’s class room allows knives at lunch, and we allow a butter knife at the table when appropriate, she also uses a screw driver and a hammer (sometimes more successfully than others) and has for some time.

      I guess the end result is that my position is not that it is my job to keep her safe but rather my job to teach her to keep herself safe. Sometimes learning such things means that you take small, measurable risks, to teach a skill. I let her use scissors, which means that perhaps, she will cut her finger (or her hair…knock on wood, this has not happened yet…the finger cutting has…) We use practice and repetition to teach skills like look both ways before you cross the street. And we avoid stranger danger like the plague, its not a good skill to learn…

      We learn through experiences (recently, I learned don’t touch that wire…when i managed to give myself a small electrical jolt) and I have learned don’t hold the knife that way when I cut my finger with it. I rarely learn much when I win, but I learn a lot when I lose.

      • I wish you would stop trying to mangle your children!

        hahahaha

        I made it all the way to adulthood and Dad ENCOURAGED us to weld and hammer and use a torch in the garage!

      • Dionna   CodeNameMama

        No, it really is sharp. It has a long handle, and at the end is a little metal end that has two sharp/spiky points. You dig it down in on either side of the root and pop the whole thing up.

        I’m interested in your take on stranger danger. You must illuminate me sometime.

        Sarah – that doesn’t surprise me at. all. I lurve your dad ;)

      • Rebecca

        But mangling is such fun!

        I still don’t know how you survived to adulthood, there Sarah.

  13. Michelle

    I feel like you were teaching the other child it is OK for your child to take a toy from them, even though they had it first, and you could just substitute it with a different one. Telling kids they are kind isn’t showing conditional love- it is how you treat them when they do something not so nice. I don’t withold love or be mean when my kids are unkind or don’t share, but I do model for them that it is not OK to grab something from someone else just because you want it. It’s not “shaming” it’s teaching values. Values are not a four letter word. They shape our choices and I want my child’s behaviour and choices to be shaped by values. Attaching values to behaviours is not the same as attaching values to your child. Saying “no, that was wrong to do” teaches the value I place on respecting others. By teaching my child, I am loving him and not putting my child’s feelings in some untouchable bubble at the cost of someone else’s.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      I agree that values are important to teach/model. I just wonder why we can’t place the value on empathy while helping the child internalize the importance of not taking the toy. Instead of just giving them a pat “it’s not kind,” “that was wrong,” really talking about the other person’s feelings while reassuring the child that their feelings are valid too. That’s not putting our child’s feelings in a bubble, it’s addressing the feelings of both children.

      By punishing the child who took the toy, we do nothing to address the fact that his/her behavior was also motivated by a need. Addressing the need will do more to connect us to the child, and it will help us understand how to approach it the next time. I wrote a little more coherently about it in “Focusing on Children’s Needs.” :)

      • Michelle

        I think you misunderstand my point. I never said the child who took the toy should be “punished”. People who choose to take a more active role in teaching values are not punishing their children. Telling my child that I expect him not to take toys whenever he wants them is not punishing him or labeling him. It is clearly and unambiguously setting up boundaries for behaviour and respect of others. I also discuss why it was unkind or not OK, not too “hammer” that it was unkind but to focus on empathy. It is teaching empathy. Sometimes the act comes before the understanding, especially with preschoolers. I said they shouldn’t be able to keep the toy because that would teach the other child it is Ok for kids to take something from them. I wonder if you would see my point of view if one day your child does not choose the empathic response you desire. He chose it this time, but probably won’t every time because they are still learning of course. The other child’s feelings are important too, which I can see by your answer you believe too. I just feel if all the focus is on not giving my child any indication his behaviour is not in line with my values and just offering the other child a different toy, the other child doesn’t see me tell the kid who took his toy that that behaviour is simply not acceptable. I also want my child to take responsibility for his actions. This seems like a big step, but starts with small things like taking a toy. If I apologize for him, he is not really learning small steps towards taking responsibility and I don’t see how apologizing to another child for your own child’s behaviour in front of them is less “shaming” than telling your child a behaviour is not Ok. You are expressing your repudiation of their act through your apology to the other child. I certainly agree that acknowledging your child’s impulse to grab a toy does not make them “bad” is a good thing, but I want both kids to see that while they are entitled to their feelings, the car is going back to the kid who had it first because that is the right thing to do. If the child chooses that action, great. If not, the car is still going back. I think it is fine to do the modeling that you are choosing to do, but I bristle when you describe more direct modeling, like telling a child straight out when something is not Ok and why, as some kind of punishment or shaming or somehow invalidating them or not teaching empathy.

      • Dionna   CodeNameMama

        I do understand what you are saying, Michelle, and I apologize for the choice of the word “punish” – you’re right, it isn’t punishment.
        Here’s something else to think about that is definitely related to your latest post: taking toys away is pretty developmentally normal for toddlers. They haven’t learned the boundaries you are talking about teaching them. But some child psychologists would argue that they haven’t learned those boundaries because they aren’t developmentally ready for them yet. So by taking the toy away and telling a child he was “unkind,” that’s not teaching him much of anything if he’s not developmentally ready for it. Does that make any sense?
        Let’s look at an analogy for a different skill/adjective: if you try to teach your two year old how to tie his shoes, chances are you are both going to end up frustrated. Will telling him that he is “unskilled” motivate him to try harder? Well, maybe, since he really wants to earn your approval. But he’s unlikely to gain any more strides in shoe-tying simply because you disapprove of his failure to learn the skill. He just does not have the manual dexterity yet.
        I can also see a chicken/egg argument here, and really, I don’t think our kids are being damaged either way – when I gently talk to Kieran about the other boy’s feelings when Kieran took his car, or when you gently take the car away from your child and hand it back to child #1. (All that to say, please don’t bristle when you read something from me – I’m not claiming that my way is superior, a lot of this is just me musing and talking about what works for us.)
        Thank you for your thoughtful comments! I appreciate the dialogue.

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