Working with children can test anyone’s ability to be articulate and correct in the moment. Saying the right thing when you are exhausted and exasperated can be a greater challenge than finding a clean wayward sock in the laundry basket on a school morning.

Although it was never beneficial to overwhelm a child with either excessive praise or criticism I am a little sceptical about the political correctness of language. Any extreme is damaging, especially to an impressionable soul without the life skills to process what to listen to and what to discard. So as always, try for balance.

I am not encouraging behaviour like a Hollywood “yes man” as the occasional and assertive “NO” is necessary for a dose of reality. Also never hearing a little praise is not ideal healthy reverse psychology to build strong character.

“Good job” or “good girl/boy” is fine, as long as you take the time to add more detail. For instance, “It’s great that you tried your best” emphasising the effort and a start to further dialogue.

I recently read that “seemingly positive phrases are actually quite destructive. Despite good intentions, these statements teach children to stop trusting their internal guidance system and to give up when things get hard”.

Hmmm, princess pumping maybe so, but clever girl acknowledgement, just like a commendation you might receive in the office, I believe is smile-worthy, possibly inspirational.

“Don’t cry” is another tricky one. A parent and carer quickly learn to distinguish the difference between genuine weeping and the attention-seeking howling when junior is not getting his way. Depending on the ferocity (eg tantrum or a little teary) it could be time to allow space for the unruly frenzy to take its course as generally, reasoning is not possible. For the real thing, soothing cuddles with reassuring words help emotional wellbeing.

Finally, we all struggle with broken promises. So best to avoid anything you cannot commit to. And as for Santa and the Tooth Fairy, I have no answers as my bucket list includes a visit to the North Pole where Prince Charming might be hiding too.

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