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HomeHealth & BehaviorSocial Skills

Power words

Four words that can help your child be the best possible person -- at home and school.

GreatSchools Blog

By GreatSchools Staff

Words can be powerful for children. Some, known as “power words,” can even be a guide for kids, reminding them to try their hardest and aim to be the best possible person — in school and in life.

Let your child know that he or she can be someone who follows the four power words:

  • Cooperation
  • Compassion
  • Persistence
  • Self-control

At first, it might feel strange to use them and for your child to hear them. But if you work them into your conversations, over time your child will get the message that these words — and the behaviors they describe — are important. For example: “To finish a project at work today, I had to cooperate with the whole team.” “Whew! It was hard, but my persistence at cleaning the garage paid off. We now have room to park in there!”

Most important, use these words to point out when your child has done something positive:

  • “You really cooperated with me today by helping to fold the laundry.”
  • “You had so much compassion when you helped your friend who was sad.”
  • “You showed persistence by working hard on your homework until it was done.”
  • “I know you were unhappy about not being able to watch more TV. But you showed real self-control by turning it off when I asked.”

Use these words often enough, and they can help your child act in the most positive way possible. Who knows, your child might even start saying them — and wow the teacher by using them in class!

Print out the list of power words — and examples of how to use them — below:

Power words

1. Cooperation

What it means: To work well with other people.
If your child says: “It’s not fair you get to decide how we build the Lego tower. I want to do it my way!”
You can say: “How about you and your friend cooperate? You can build this area over here, and he can build that area over there.”

2. Compassion

What it means: To care about other people and how they feel.
If your child says: “My sister is such a baby! She always cries whenever she hurts herself.”
You can say: “Your sister looks like she’s really sad. We have compassion for each other in our family. You can show your sister compassion by asking her if she needs help.”

3. Persistence

What it means: To keep trying to do something until you succeed.
If your child says: “I give up! I’m never going to learn to swim. ”
You can say: “I’ve seen you have real persistence before. You thought you wouldn’t learn to ride a bike, but you kept trying, and now you know how. You can do the same with swimming.”

4. Self-control

What it means: To behave well and control your behavior, even if you’re sad or mad.
If your child says: “I hate Roberto! He’s always taking the ball away from me at recess.”
You can say: “I know you're really mad at Roberto, but you showed self-control. You didn’t hit him or yell at him. That can be really difficult to do when you are angry.”

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

10/13/2010:
"I really liked this article. I am going to use this with my grandson. Thanks. We need more reinforcements such as this."
10/13/2010:
"I love these four power words. I talk to my daughter all the time, about how important it is to be positive. These words will help me teach her more ways to be a positive person."
10/13/2010:
"I love the idea of power words for the week. It will expand their vocabulary and give them tools for writing."
10/13/2010:
"I LOVE this article. John Gray (Mars and Venus) encouraged using the word 'cooperate' and we have had great success with it. We also use 'self-control' in our family. I'm excited to include persistence and compassion. Praising that behavior has paid off in BIG dividends in our family!!"
10/13/2010:
"Thanks for the encouragement to assist us to do more for our children."
10/13/2010:
"Excellent advice! I have taught children for over 30 years. Those 4 characteristic can be taught and modeled. They will be a benefit for a lifetime, not just the school years."
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