Understanding how important your thoughts are to the results in your life is such an important truth. It's the key to success or failure, happiness or frustrations. I could talk about it all day, and will in many blog posts on different topics to come. But this week, as children all across Canada are getting back to school, I’m going to talk about how our thoughts and words relate to children and what we, as adults, say to them. Whether you are a parent, a teacher, coach, an aunt or uncle, grandma or grandpa the words you use with the children in your life influence the thoughts they think about themselves, and about the world.
“You become what you think about, all day long” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“A belief is just a thought you keep thinking” Abraham Hicks
“The soul become dyed with the colour of its thoughts” Marcus Aurelius
Even after children develop a conscious mind at around the age of 4 years old, their subconscious mind remains virtually wide open around family, friends and people in positions of authority. We don't 'filter' what we hear at this young age, and especially not with people we trust. Children believe what we say! We certainly see it in the awe and admiration on a young child’s face when they ask us questions and we (seem to always!) know the answers! It can feel like a lot of responsibility. Because it is.
As words, ideas and thoughts come in to a child’s developing mind, they go straight into the subconscious (or emotional) mind, and over time, these form beliefs, habits and ‘lock’ them into certain ways of thinking. Stop and think about why YOU think some of the things you do. Or when you find yourself saying something to the young people in your life that sounds exactly like what your mother or father used to say…
We can see this in how the children who gets known as the ‘smart’ one, the ‘one who can’t spell’, who ‘always cries’ or is ‘uncoordinated and clumsy’ continues along these paths unless someone points out another way of being, and helps her or him explore and develop new possibilities. You can help the young people in your life by showing them these possibilities through the words you use and ideas you share with them.
Here’s one way that we have consciously tried to address this in our house. It has helped train us to use different words. We created a list of Labels We Like. You’d be surprised how often people spout out labels that are harmful. Many of these represent traits that people have (lazy, silly, stupid, mean, annoying, ungrateful…). If we tell our kids this – even in anger – do we really mean it? Do we want them to grow up to be adults with these traits? I’d say NO.
Create a list of label you DO like. Imagine yourself at your child’s graduation or wedding, giving a speech about him or her. What do you envision yourself saying? What ‘labels’ would you use? Write them down. Put them up somewhere to remind yourself of these positive words. My list is on the inside of my closet door where I see it every single day. This isn’t about excessive praise or overdoing the positive. It’s about using words to create images in of your child in your mind, and of himself in his mind, that he will start to think about more and more until the idea become a belief. A belief in themselves that they are a ‘caring’ person, a ‘capable’, person, a ‘fun’ person! It's about looking for the good, and pointing it out.
If you are in a tough place right now and can’t think of any positive labels, call someone else who loves your child – a grandparent or aunt, teacher or coach. Ask them to remind you how amazing your child is. Guaranteed they will have some positive labels to share!
Which came first the behaviour or the label…? When our subconscious mind believes something (and it can only believe) our conscious mind and our actions will work to reinforce it. As a parent, I can’t control what my children experience outside of our family life. I CAN help to ‘immunize’ against harmful ideas and comments they encounter out and about in the world and feed their minds with possibilities. And you can too!