The everyday language you use around your children has an immense impact on their inner wellbeing. It also has a huge impact on your wellbeing, which means that one of the easiest ways of helping your children to think and speak positively is to do it yourself.
In this chapter, we’ll begin by having a look some of the simple ways you can turn your ‘negatives’ into ‘positives’.
Think back to your own childhood for a moment. Did you ever play that game at school when someone said to you “don’t think of a pink elephant”, or a bright purple car, or some other silly game when the only instruction was NOT to do something?
Most probably, you ended up thinking of the very thing you wanted to avoid. This is because our minds cannot process a ‘negative’ concept without first bringing into focus whatever it is that is to be avoided. In other words, the mind first has to call up the image before it can process the command to dismiss it.
This is so important to understand when it comes to speaking to your children. It can be so tempting to say, “don’t do this “or “don’t do that” but in actual fact, all you are doing is focusing their attention on what you actually want them to stop doing, or avoid. Generally speaking, the last image that is held in your child’s mind is the one they are most likely to respond to.
The trick here is to keep your language completely positive and focus your child’s attention on what you actually do want them to do, avoiding any reference to what you want them to stop.
For example, instead of saying, “don’t run”, it is more helpful to say, remember to walk”. Or, instead of calling out “stop shouting”, it’s more likely that you will get a better response by saying “can you say that quietly please”.
Take a few moments to consider these examples and then think of a few of your own.
What do you regularly say to your children that have the words, don’t, stop, or can’t in the sentence?
Take some paper, or choose a special notebook that you will enjoy writing in.
Make a list of the common everyday things you say to your children that include the words, stop, don’t, can’t, mustn’t, or any other ‘negative’ that you can think of.
Now, how might you re-word those same sentences to focus your child’s attention on what you actually do want them to do, rather than on what you want them to stop?
Do consider giving some time to this exercise. It is such a quick and easy thing to do and with repetition, it can bring you very positive results.
The importance of praise.
It is also worth just saying a word or two about the importance of praise. It sounds so obvious I know and the chances are that you already give praise freely, but it is still worth giving some thought to how you can become even more creative in the ways you endorse and support your child’s growth. Offering regular and meaningful praise is fundamental to helping your child build up their self-worth and self-esteem.
Children thrive on positive praise and kind words. It can help them to develop a positive mindset and can play a large part in determining their happiness in life.
Think back to your own school days when you received a special merit or a gold star for doing something particularly well. Can you remember how good that felt, just to be noticed for doing something well?
The trick here is to keep your praise simple. Keep it positive, and do it often!
For example, you could say something as simple as “I really like the way you did that”, or “that’s brilliant, you are so good at . . .” whatever it is. Or maybe just a simple thank you for something that’s well done is all that is needed.
But these are just my examples, what is important here is that you come up with some examples of your own.
Ask yourself, what is it that my child is most in need of praise for today?
What negative, or unhelpful beliefs might they have about themselves that you could help to soften or undo with your praise?
All children acquire beliefs about themselves and the world around them from an incredibly early age and these beliefs continue to be built up and reinforced throughout every stage of life until eventually, they become the filter through which they see themselves both in relation to others and the world around them.
In a similar way, your child’s self-esteem reflects how they feel about themselves. Both are closely related and if they have a poor self-image their self-esteem will also tend to be poor. It is so important to have a clear and honest idea of what this is like for your child because the thoughts and images they hold about themselves will profoundly affect their self-esteem and confidence as well as influence their ability to do well in the world.
Offering praise does not just mean saying kind words but saying them with warmth and love together with the body language to match. When you offer praise regularly it allows your child to develop a positive view of themselves as well as letting them know just how much they are valued and loved.
After all, a healthy self-confidence is one of the most precious qualities a child can ever have.
Take a pen and paper and set aside a few minutes to think of at least six new ways you can support, or enhance your child’s self-esteem.
Over the next week, tick off each activity or idea as you put it into practice.
How did your child react to your praise?
What new ideas could you come up with for next week?
I will leave you to have some fun turning your negatives into positives and finding new and ever more creative ways to give praise and help your child to shine.
Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.