Dr. Larry Larsen is an Andover psychologist. If you would like to ask a question, or respond to one, you can e-mail Dr. Larry Larsen at lrryllrsn@CS.com.

Dear Doctor,

I know words are important when you talk to your child.

Our son’s Dad is a wonderful man, but he sometimes says things to our two boys that I wish he wouldn’t.

He says things like “How stupid can you be?” or “Keep doing that, and you will be a loser.”

He says he doesn’t mean it. I am just wondering how I can get through to him. I can see it hurts the kids. The oldest is 12, and his younger brother is 10.

— Mom

Dear Mom,

Words are the currency of our species. They make a huge difference in the lives of our children.

Words define us.

What your boys are hearing will stick and become their definition of themselves. They may see themselves as “losers” and people who will go nowhere in life.

Here are some pointers which may help.

Think before you speak. Try always to be positive and reinforce the best. Even when a youngster has messed up, lean toward the better. “I know this is not like you. You are.....”

Get rid of the “you” statements unless it is positive. “You did that so well,” is fine “when will you ever learn” is not. If you are communicating a feeling on your part use an “I” statement. “When I see you doing that, it makes me feel.....”

Always speak to the character you are trying to develop. This is for the long haul, and your words will come back to your ears when your sons are grown and have children of their own. “You have strength in your heart.” “You are so kind.” You get the idea.

Be as consistent as you are able to be and teach Dad a thing or two!

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