Change your words, change your world
I’m sure you’ve heard of this: ‘If you tell a person often enough that they are stupid, they will soon begin to believe it.’ The words we use, whether talking to others or to ourselves, have a profound effect on our mindset.
Mindset is, in effect, how you see the world and yourself in the world. With a negative mindset, the world seems difficult; small setbacks feel like failures; new situations feel daunting; trying feels hopeless. With a positive mindset, mistakes are for learning from; something new is an exciting challenge; hard work brings results; the world is a great place to be.
Notice the difference in language used in describing the negative versus the positive. Changing your mindset can be brought about simply by changing the words that you use. Your choice of words, talking to yourself and to your children, is an important way in which you can create a happy world view.
‘The Simpsons’ cartoon show started when my children were little. I banned it in our house because of the put downs that were used in the interactions between characters. ‘Duh’ is possibly the simplest and worst self-admonishment out there, and it has become quite pervasive, thanks to Bart. Combining this sort of language with enjoyable humour has made it ‘okay.’ I’ve often heard my children and others using put downs with each other. When I’d pull them up about it, they would say, “It’s okay. We’re just joking.” But it’s not okay because that sort of language creates a negative mindset. (Maybe ‘The Simpsons’ has changed in this regard but I don’t know as I don’t watch it.)
You can help your children to develop a positive mindset by helping them to change the words that they use. Here are some good examples of how to turn around words you might often hear children saying: ‘This is too hard’ becomes ‘This may take some time and effort.’ ‘I made a mistake’ becomes ‘Mistakes help me improve.’ These are some simple phrases you can teach your children and then encourage them to use.
One great little word that you can help your children to use is ‘yet.’ When they say ‘I can’t do this’ encourage them to add ‘yet.’ This creates a 180 degree turn around from a negative, hopeless feeling to a positive, forward looking view.
Giving praise to your children is considered an essential element in boosting their self-esteem in a positive way. But did you know that your choice of language, again, has a profound effect on their mindset. Praising cleverness with phrases like: ‘You’re so smart’; ‘You’re really good at this’ sets them up for failure when they make a mistake, showing that they are not so smart at all, and leading to the ‘I’m no good at this’ and ‘Why bother?’ negative mindset. Instead, by praising their effort with phrases like: ‘You deserve those good results after all the hard work you put in’; ‘I’m really proud of the way you stuck at that’ you will be reinforcing the language that creates a positive mindset.
Praise is a key ingredient of the success that our students experience at NumberWorks’nWords, and we train our tutors to be aware of these different types of praise and to use phrases that acknowledge and reward effort.
Words are powerful and our brains believe what we hear. Help your children, and yourself, to hear the right sorts of words that are going to create a great world in which they are happy to be and, consequently, in which they will succeed.