Family & Social Child Developement
6 Things to Say Instead of "be nice"
It's a phrase well-meaning parents everywhere say to their children. I sometimes hear it fall from my own mouth, and wonder where it came from as I don't intentionally use it. With intention, I'd address the problem specifically, and offer more guidance in making it better without blindly suggesting to my child that he isn't nice. Although I have many problems with the phrase be nice, my main one is that the actual message often has nothing to do with being nice at all.
Recently at a playground, I saw a little girl sitting in a sandbox completely immersed in scooping pebbles into a bucket. A boy her same age starting pulling at the shovel she was using. The mother of the girl said, Honey, he wants a turn with the shovel. Why don't you share it? Go ahead, be nice.
Was giving up her shovel and forgoing her project really the nice thing to do? Perhaps we confuse being nice with pleasing others at the expense of ourselves? Are we teaching our children this is virtuous? Avoiding conflict isn't more important than asserting ourselves, yet that's often the message behind be nice. Self-denial then becomes the nice thing to do, and rather than follow our hearts we let the expectations of others guide us. In this way, we fall out of alignment with ourselves. We forget how to honor ourselves because we are so preoccupied with external validation.
Personally, I never wanted to be defined as nice. It's a good start, but it's not enough. People get called nice when they're pleasant, but lack a certain oomph that makes them stand out. Nice people are kind, but something stands in the way of knowing them on a deeper level. That something is usually niceness itself, as truth is often sacrificed in order to appease and be non-confrontational. When we tell our children to be nice, we unintentionally interfere with their relationship with themselves and others.
Authenticity is niceness in its highest form. It's honest, and that's what all people want and deserve. It's also what we owe ourselves. Let's not unknowingly lead our children to believe otherwise through the confusing message of be nice. The lesson that little girl really needed is how to say, I'm enjoying my shovel right now, but when I'm through, you can use it. It teaches her to assert herself while still speaking calmly. It also helps the boy develop respect of people's time, space, and belongings. It reduces entitlement and fosters mutual respect.
The full version of this article can be found on Kidskintha.
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