I bet you’ve heard before how much power words hold. As I have gotten older, my understanding of just how much power exist in words has gotten better. Especially when it comes to self-talk, our words are like the steering wheel of our lives. What more can I compare words to? Words are food to our mind and soul, and the building blocks of our lives. It’s amazing how the right words can help you conquer your insecurities and fears. On the other hand, words that express self-doubt often make situations worst. The same principle of positive self-talk governs speaking positively to your child. I have come to realize that the old adage “sticks and stones will break my bonesbut words will never harm me” is only partially true. Words spoken by outsiders may never harm your child but negative words you speak to your child can greatly damage their self-esteem and ultimately their path in life.
As a parent or guardian, you are in a strategic position to influence the course of your child’s life just by choosing to speak positively at all times to him or her. It’s really not an easy thing to do especially if you, like me are a bit sarcastic; however, committing to positively speaking to your child will greatly impact your child’s healthy growth and psychological development. Here are some simple but effective ways to speak positively to your child:
Say I Love You – Letting your child know on a consistent basis that you love him/her is the most important positive talk you can give your child every day. It reminds your child that he or she has all the love, approval and acceptance he/she needs at home and does not need to search or be manipulated into accepting the wrong kind of love elsewhere. Telling your children just how much you love them makes them understand that whether they do something wrong or right, your love for them is unwavering and that they in turn must love and accept themselves unconditionally.
Say You are Blessed – Unless you are an atheist, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be speaking God’s blessings over your child’s life on a regular basis. Every now and then, I tell my one-year old just how blessed he is. He may not understand me but I lose nothing by calling blessings upon his life even without his knowledge. By telling my baby just how blessed he is, I am proclaiming abundance and favor for him. Hey! I am trying to stack up as much blessings for his “store house” as possible until he can do it for himself.
Positive Correction – How you choose to correct your child when he/she does something wrong can greatly impact how your child sees him- or herself. You must avoid unnecessarily harsh words when critiquing your child’s wrongdoing. For most people, culture plays a huge role in how they raise and speak to their children. I know for a fact that in most African cultures, sarcastic criticism is the normal mode of speaking when correcting a child. For instance, when a child does something wrong it’s very common to hear a parent say something like: “you can never do anything right,” “you never listen,” “what kind of a child are you?” or at the worst “you want to kill me, right?” It may sound like harmless talk influenced by culture but continuously telling a child that they can never do anything right deeply hurts their sense of self, making them insecure and vulnerable. As humans, we tend to opt for the easy way out when faced with difficult situations. Therefore, asking a child what kind of child they are makes that child question if they are really worth any good and they just may decide to take the easy way out and keep acting up rather than making efforts to change.
Instead of these kinds of hurtful labels, use positive reinforcement to reshape your child’s bad behavior and thought process. Encourage your child to feel free to communicate with you so you can understand why the child is misbehaving. Ask the child what’s really going on and give them the opportunity to express their reason for misbehaving so that you can effectively recondition their thinking. This has a greater chance of changing the bad behavior than any of the negative examples above.
Highlight Your Child’s Strengths – Communicating with your child using his or her strength as an essential tool for the conversation is a priceless approach that nurtures and empowers your child’s thinking process. For instance, if your child made a wrong decision, instead of saying something like “why on earth did you think this was a great choice?” try asking the right questions that with help you understand their choice of action. In doing this, be sure to highlight the child’s strength so that the child doesn’t think that making this one wrong decision means they are a failure.
Like I always say, absolutely nothing good comes easy so you can start by making little efforts to say positive things to your child and continue to cultivate the habit until it becomes second nature.