Parenting communication be nice

This article is a way for me to express my comments regarding, what I believe, to be one of the most misused words in my awareness. NICE.

Hearing this overly-used word became a huge bug for me when I was working with young children in Preschool and Parent Co-ops. I would hear parent after parent admonishing their child to “Be nice!”

In my search for this word’s meaning I once heard that the origin of ‘nice’ came from ‘nit’ and had been used by women who were mastering embroidery. They would praise a particularly well done piece of stitchery with “nice.”

In my copy of ‘Origins’ I found that it originally derived from science – to know. Therefore, it also had a negative, ˆnescience – meaning ignorant, foolish. Those definitions somehow morphed into discriminating and agreeable.
My thesaurus also has a slew of synonyms (a word or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same as another word or phrase in the same language) for nice:
Agreeable, pleasant, charming…
Gratifying, pleasing, satisfying, savory…
Refined, proper, right, cultured, elegant…
Precise, exact, detailed, fine, true…
Meticulous, discriminating, selective ,wise, perfect…
Delicate, fine, exquisite…
* … indicates at least ten more synonyms in each category.

So what’s a young child to do when told to “Be nice”?

I am a big proponent for clear communication, especially when communicating with our children. Parents and all adults, let’s try and use clear communication and be more exact with our words and the way we are interacting with young people.
Let’s speak concisely and also put motions to a specific word or action. For example, instead of saying, “be nice,” try using: be gentle, be kind, be patient, let’s take turns, please listen, etc., or lead by example.

Albert Einstein said it this way: Example is not another way to teach, it is the only way! If words ever fail, we can always remember to be the best examples of behavior we can be. I hope you get the message. Be clear. Be a positive model and enjoy.

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Liz Wertheim has trained with Virginia Satir, has her Early Childhood degree, co-directed two Sudbury Schools and staffed many years at the Hui Jungle Preschool. She also has facilitated a series of Parenting Classes. To chat with Liz call (808) 573-1819.


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