When it comes to the responsibility of demonstrating good behavior and positive language to children, it’s vitally important that teachers do our part.

As educators who play a huge part in how our students develop and grow, showing them how to behave is just as important as teaching them their A-B-Cs or 1-2-3s.

Changing language to something more positive can provide children with:

  • Behavior to model in their own interactions
  • A way to speak more nicely to their teachers and peers
  • A more upbeat, positive environment overall

Swapping out some of your more negative speech for something a little more positive can be an excellent way to quickly and easily modify the way you speak to your students, providing them with a great model for the future and teaching them that words do matter. Read on for ten tips you can use to make those modifications quickly and painlessly for your students:

1. Welcome Emotions

It can be easy to use negative language surrounding emotions. After all, we’ve all been told in the past, “don’t get upset,” or “don’t cry.” But for children, feeling those emotions is a vital part of development.

Instead of framing their feelings as a bad thing, instead, tell your students that it’s okay to cry or feel upset – welcoming how they feel without making them feel bad about it.

2. Provide Motivation

For struggling students, stepping in to help can be challenging to resist. But instead of doing things for your students, using motivational and positive language can give them the boost to strike out on their own and focus on what’s needed.

Instead of “do you need help?”, consider telling your students, “I can help if you need me.”

3. Offer Support

We often slip judgmental language into our speech without even thinking about it. For a child who is having trouble with a particular piece of work, saying “it’s not that hard” will only be harmful, leading them to believe they are unable to succeed.

Swapping out that language for “you can do even difficult things” can be a powerful way to offer that support.

4. Encourage Engagement

Engaged students are better students. Encouraging your student through speech, for example with “now, how can we clean up?” as opposed to “this is such a mess!”, can allow children to connect with what you’re saying, and provide their own solutions to problems, instead of feeling punished.

5. Give Instruction

Vague statements may feel the best when it comes to getting out frustration, but if you aren’t offering guidance or instruction, then there’s little your students can achieve from your words.

For example, saying to “use kind words” instead of telling a student that they can’t talk a certain way offers them an alternative way to behave.

6. Don’t Threaten

It’s a well-known fact that threats often fall on deaf ears. With your students, threats only serve to create a negative atmosphere. But re-framing statements as something beneficial and positive can make all the difference.

Changing “do I need to split you two up?” to “do you two need a break from each other?” is an excellent example of this.

7. Be Open-Ended

You don’t always have to have the answer. Sometimes, choosing to ask a question rather than make a statement can lead to a more positive experience. For example, instead of saying, “you’re okay,” ask if your student is feeling alright.

Allowing communication to be open and free is just as vital to ensuring your classroom is positive as knowing the answers yourself.

8. Provide Solutions

Perhaps your students just aren’t listening, or you’re struggling to teach a particular child a subject effectively. “I explained how this is done yesterday” is a common phrase for any teacher, but substitute that frustration of a solution and your conversation will be far more positive “I can show you another way around this” is a good example of changing a conversation from frustrating to fruitful.

9. Understand Limits

While it can be tempting to think of children as mini-adults, they’re still far more malleable when it comes to learning and development; and their limits are far lower, too.

If you understand the limits of your class, it’s far easier to put their behavior into perspective, and use more positive language yourself.

10. Remove Harshness

Even nicely-worded statements can come across as harsh. By carefully modulating your language and way of speaking to remove harshness, you’re far more likely to get a positive response form your class. Snapping or short statements – such as “be quiet” or “stop that” – often have a negative influence. Instead, make your words softer to make your communication more positive overall.

How do you utilize positive language to promote peace and empower students in the classroom?