Use Your Words Wisely
Our culture and our time all impact us parents. We can no more step back to the 1950s than we can prepare our children for the inevitable eyelid embedded, thought reading iPhone of the future. We live in the here and now.
And that’s a good thing. Because A) who wants to re-live the 50s, really? And B) a thought reading iPhone – yeah, right?!?
But how does our past influence our current lives, even our future? Let’s look simply at language. Yes, I’m talking specific word choice. As in ‘use your words,’ a phrase you no doubt know. Hey, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, right?
What words do you use to express yourself – are they productive or unproductive to little ears?
Are you making your child please you by emphasizing your needs: “I need you to…”? Are you shaming your child: “You didn’t wet the bed, did you?” Listen to how you frame things and you’ll hear the messages you are sending underneath the words.
The glass is half full
Without getting into armchair psycho-babble, let’s look at the glass is half full or half empty scenario. Are you picturing it? Good. Now, throw out the response in your head. The milk is in the glass. Period.
And now, imagine the glass is in your toddler’s tiny tilting hand, headed for the floor. Do you say A) ‘Don’t spill the milk’ or B) ‘Keep the milk in the glass’? What are you visualizing?
If you can see that milk spilling, then chances are your child will, too, especially if you paint the picture for him. “Spill the milk” is what he’ll hear, not the “don’t.” So your words – whether they are yours, your mother’s, your father’s, your cousin’s uncle’s half-brother-who-raised-you’s words – will inform the future of that milk in the glass.
Now imagine that milk staying in the glass. You say, ‘Keep the milk in the glass.’ Now even the milk is thinking, ‘Yeah! I’m staying in.’ He He. But seriously, you’ve set the stage for success simply by giving the affirmative interpretation of things. You and your child are picturing a glass with milk in it, not spilled all over the table and floor.
That’s one very big facet of language: affirmative visualization. Also, keep in mind this isn’t unbridled optimism. You are not your child’s uber-cheerleader. You simply want to put a positive spin on things.
Children these days hear ‘no’ so often, it’s a pretty useless, nonsensical word. Over used. Even if you don’t agree with why I’m saying this, using a positive approach can’t hurt, right? And at least your words have a chance of getting in their little heads.
Stop, look and listen…then breathe
But what if you don’t know what the affirmative is in the moment? Stop and think of it. Let your child see you do this. Let her see you struggle with your response. With this, you will model a conscious choosing of your words.
You will show that being aware of the way you express yourself takes practice. Also, you will automatically be calmer than if you simply react because thinking takes time and breathing – two things that work to calm you down a bit.
Another component to this for children under 7 is to anthropomorphize the world. Be concrete. “The spoon does not like to bang on the table.” “The stuffed lion does not like to fly through the air.” “It’s time for the doll to sleep.” Bring your words in line with the pictorial thinking of your child. He lives in pictures, so speak to him that way.
photo credit: striatic