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.”
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