Words Matter

Words matter.  An elementary school student told me that she is “unteachable.”  Where did she learn that word?  “Unteachable” is not a word that a young student knows.  It is not a label she should own.  It is entirely false. 

Words matter.  A preschool student told me that he is “bad.”  He is sweet and funny.  He is young and needs to learn about socialization and behavior.  He is under the age of 4 and already has a negative word about himself.

Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me.  Untrue.  Words mean everything.  Words shape our view of our world and of ourselves.  Too often, adults talk about children as if they cannot hear them.  Just because a child is shorter and his ears are not at the same height as yours does not mean that he cannot hear you.  A child may be playing with toys but, if she is in the vicinity, she can hear you.

Think about the words you use when you are with children.  You cannot fill the air with negativity and expect to get positive things back.  Ask yourself:

  • Do I use more positive, self-esteem building words or more negative words?
  • Do I use words to point out how we are all human and deserve compassion or do I use words to create a gossipy world of them vs. us? 
  • Do I use words that reflect the values that I want to teach?
  • Do I use words to criticize rather than offer constructive advice? 

We all have a thought reel that plays in our heads.  Our thoughts are almost always about the past or the future. We remember.  We imagine scenarios.   It is our brain’s self-defense, survival of the fittest mechanism for keeping us from harm.  When children are young, their thoughts about themselves are shaped, in part, by the words of others.  Their thought reel is created by us.  We each need to take responsibility for the words we add to their world.   If each one of us thought for a moment before we spoke, maybe one less child would think herself “unteachable” and one less preschooler would enter elementary school feeling like he is “bad.”

Words matter.

Read this blog for more articles.  Ask your parenting & education questions and learn about early childhood workshops for parents & educators - Helping Kids Achieve.
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Copyright 2014 © Cindy Terebush
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  1. This article is critical for anyone who has children or work with children. I even think managers of employees and leaders in business could follow this advice in your blog. Always stay positive in you speech, build children and adults up not tear them down who WINs from that?

    1. Thank you. I am hearing that people are using this article in a variety of ways.

  2. I am currently in a battle with our Elementary School to remove a second grade teacher who is absolutely inappropriate in his comments toward the children. Today, instead of attending the parent/teacher conference that had been scheduled, I delivered a second letter to the teacher and Principal indicating my concerns and formally announcing that my child will not return to that classroom. The principal's hands are tied by the "rules and regulations" that govern HR, Teacher's Union, etc... but is sending along my specific written concerns to the appropriate authorities. This article is at the heart of my letters of concern. I would like to request permission to make a copy of your article for the Principal as well as for the Superintendent of the School District as I continue to advocate for the rest of the children who are in my son's classroom. I have saved my child but want to pursue this further. Parents need to really listen and take time to be aware of what happens in the classroom so they can teach their child about self-advocacy as well as be a resource for the administrators who must deal with the Human Resources aspect of removing teachers who are negative, abrasive, and emotionally abusive to children. I am very interested in contributing to this cause and will add comments on my blog as well. Thank You for this article. I look forward to hearing from you when time permits. mbvrodriguez3@yahoo.com http://www.poetztree.blogspot.com


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