Today I’m sharing a list of 100+ positive adjectives to describe a child (or any person). You won’t find phrases like “well behaved” or adjectives like cute, handsome, or intelligent. Make sure to look below the list for a free printable poster of the positive adjectives for your home or classroom!
Have you ever noticed that the qualities we claim to value in adults are the same things we try to discourage in children?
We praise children for being quiet, coloring inside the lines, and standing still. Then we say we value innovation, determination, and authenticity.
We also tend to praise children’s appearance constantly but don’t really mention their personalities and actions in positive ways. This list of positive adjectives to call a child will help you change that!
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Why we shouldn’t always praise a child’s appearance or intelligence
Hearing the words people use to describe my child has made me very aware of the adjectives I use to describe her. Their descriptions have made me really stop and think about the messages our word choices unintentionally send our children.
Frequently we use kind of milk-toast adjectives like “great,” focus on physical characteristics (“cute” or “pretty”), or praise a child for being so “smart.”
There are a couple problems with always praising a child’s appearance or constantly calling them “good” or “smart.”
For one, girls are already bombarded with messages from society that their appearance matters, maybe more than anything else about them. Although no one means harm when they tell their daughter how cute she is or that she has a nice outfit, it helps reinforce the idea that how they look is more important then who they are. This can cause a lot of problems and confidence issues down the line!
Virtually everyone who talks to us when we’re out tells us how pretty, beautiful, or cute our LG is. They tell us how my husband is going to jealously guard her from would-be boyfriends. Muñeca (doll) and princesa are favorite adjectives from our Miami family. A few people do comment on how observant she is, but typically only after they’ve called her cute half a dozen times.
I know it’s super hard not to call your little one cute all the time. I’ve tried since day 1 to say other things to LG, but “cute” still slips out frequently because she is cute! But I consciously try to mention her other attributes, like her strength and determination, whenever possible.
Constantly praising a child’s intelligence can also backfire. Although it’s obviously fine to mention their smarts in moderation, a child may become afraid of doing anything that might make them look “stupid” if they’ve tied their identity to being “smart.”
This kind of thinking can lead “talented” students to take less challenging classes and tasks because they’ve tied their identity to being a “good student” and are afraid of making less than straight A’s (If you’re a new reader – I have a Masters in Teaching and this is a topic we studied in developmental psychology and educational theory classes. It’s fascinating stuff!)
It’s also really important to read the research on how praise can backfire in the long run. Read Conditional Parenting – it’s a game changer.
- Raising Kids
- Alfie Kohn
- Publisher: Atria Books
By using more diverse adjectives to describe your child and mentioning their personality traits more than their appearance, you can help your child develop a more healthy and wholistic self-image and greater confidence!
How to use this list of positive adjectives
These adjectives are great for introducing new words to your child. Some of them are more advanced than others, which makes them the perfect way to introduce new words.
They’re also useful for expanding your own repertoire of complements and descriptions.
Additionally, you can use these adjectives if your child has a school assignment to come up with a list of words to describe themselves.
Challenge your children to describe themselves and others in new, different ways each day of the week! See if you can all go an entire week without simply describing someone as nice, pretty, or great.
Make sure to grab the free printable poster (at the bottom of the post) with all 100+ positive adjectives so you can post it in your home or classroom for reference!
100+ positive adjectives to describe a child
Free printable poster of positive adjectives
Here’s a preview of the printable poster of positive adjectives! (It’s just a low-res preview, not the printable PDF)
If you’d like to reference this list of positive adjectives to describe a child, make sure to grab the free printable!
This poster of positive adjectives matches a set of the growth mindset poster printables I shared recently. Make sure to download them, too, while you’re in the resource library!
More positive parenting resources
You can’t pour from an empty cup. These free self-care ideas for moms can help you be the positive parent you want to be! There are also some free printable affirmation cards to help you out.
Do you want to encourage your toddler’s desire to practice gross motor skills? These indoor gross motor toys for toddlers are the best!
Do you have any additional positive adjectives you’d like to see added to the list?
Natasha holds a Masters of the Arts in teaching and is a registered yoga teacher & certified life coach. She’s also a mom raising a bilingual Cuban-American with a Montessori-inspired positive parenting philosophy.