I’m guilty of this – are you?
My childhood was full of “good” girl, “good” student, “good” friend and “good” job. Adulthood had “good” looking, “good” worker and “good” mother. But this word “good” – what does it really mean?
When I was small it might have meant quiet or obedient or attentive. Later it meant attractive, motivated, thorough, self-sacrificing. “Good” guys were just or kind or proactive.
It’s so much easier to say “good” than any of those other words. There’s something satisfying about passing judgment, classifying something sharply as good or bad, when in reality, the distinction isn’t so clear – but we all agree we want to be “good.”
I know I’ve relied upon this sh!tty adjective as much as the next person, but now I’m challenging myself to find another more accurate word. It’s making me pay more attention to what I really value and to what’s happening in front of me. Plus, my child is hearing new multi-syllabic descriptive words and a more clear expression of my meaning.
We parents can take on this challenge at any time, becoming more conscious of how we’re conditioning our tots, kids, and teens. We can model a higher standard.
Your children, however, might not be ready for this intellectual plunge until adolescence, when nuance, manipulation, and conditioning become really interesting. You can challenge your teen to go beyond that one-syllable word, “good”, to something that really conveys what they’re trying to say.
What’s a “good” essay? What does it mean to be a “good” kisser? What’s “good” sex?
Was he a “good” boyfriend? What does that mean?
Try it and see if you get some good conversations going with your teen. Oh, I mean some reflective and engaged conversation. 😛
In support of you,
P.S. Want more teen tips? Take a peek at the Parenting Teen Sexuality video series. Stream the experts anytime and anywhere, when you have some downtime or are in need of support and inspiration. Wouldn’t it be nice to have these angels in your back pocket? You can!
Yes! This is along the same lines as a conversation I was having yesterday about the word, “nice” and how being nice isn’t necessarily a healthy life skill or a way of teaching empathy and healthy emotional expression. And yet, I hear it used all the time to correct kids’ behavior – “that’s not nice” or “be nice”. And I wonder what does that really teach them?
Thank you! That’s an excellent point. Some of these words merely convey APPROVAL, and nothing more. I think we’re using good/bad, nice/mean to convey that we like something or don’t, rather than decoding WHY we like it or don’t.
I think this needs to start with how we use “good” and “bad” when talking with children. I always laugh when people (adults) would ask my child if she has been a “good girl”… what does that even mean?? I always told my daughter that “good” and “bad” are words to describe food and people are definitely NOT food– if something is good (yummy) bad (yucky).. I would taste her arm (in private) and say..yep, definitely you’re not very good, a little bad, maybe I should throw you out. She would always laugh and tell me the same. When we would hear the words “bad” and “good when parents/adults talked to other children, I would always let her know that people who use these words don’t know other words to describe what they are feeling and not of the time it is habitual rather than a conscious word choice. (Obviously using age-appropriate language.)
I definitely agree that these words have an underlaying message of coercion.