The Language for Children

Watch what you say - making sure you're speaking the right language

Young children are very nominal in their thought process and language skills. By that I mean they either win a race or they lose, they are loved or they are not, its black or its white.  They just don't "get" any grey elements of their reality.

It’s important to know this and be mindful of it when working with children.  They are very literal in their understanding.

That's why things like  :

"your a bad kid" when what we mean is  “what you did was not really the way we should do things how about we do this instead..."


“you are really stupid!”  When we mean, “I know you don't understand and that's ok because your still learning so how about I try and help you by explaining it better...”

All too frequently it’s easy to forget to watch our language as a parent in the thick of it. To a point I completely get that, but I see no excuse for professionals working with kids not to be mindful of their language.

Children want praise they want to please.  So well-meaning but ill thought-out statements from someone in authority. For example "if you eat that you will get fat", or “if you don't do this or that  x y and z will happen....”

As adults we can disseminate the message and get the point without taking it literally. Kids don't.

An example

I had a 10 year old boy bought to me with anorexia, when I tracked back to the thing that may of started this mind set and through listening to his language something worrying appeared.  The young fellow said “I can’t eat anything with a red label or red because I will get fat, and if I don't wear warm clothes my metabolic rate will rise and I will lose weight so I am not fat. Because fat people get diabetes and go blind!”

Ten! Metabolic rate??

Someone had come into a school and done a talk on food and health.  The language was aimed at adults and not adapted for kids who,  yes, took it literally.

Coach the Coaches

Part of the work we do with our Ollie coaches is called Coach the Coaches, teaching them "clean" language skills for working with children and vulnerable young adults.

It’s not the child who needs to watch his language – it’s us!

For Ollie coaches and coach training contact us