Ever catch yourself calling out to your child with commands like … Don’t run! … Don’t hit your brother! … Don’t forget to brush your teeth! What commonality do these expressions share?
If you answered with the word don’t, then you’d be correct.
While the phrasing of these statements might be second nature to you, they may also be backfiring when it comes to providing direction for your child.
Well, it’s because your child’s subconscious brain is really responding to the words following the don’t (or the No! or the Stop!). In other words, your child primarily hears Run!and Hit your brother! and Forget to brush your teeth! and anything else negative you’re trying not to express. In my hypnotherapy training, I learned that the subconscious brain takes language literally and does not filter out the negative. In Dr. Allen Chip’s book “Clinical Hypnotherapy: A Transpersonal Approach” he writes:
“The subconscious and unconscious minds do not process negatives under hypnosis. Even in the waking state, when an individual suggests a sentence with a negative in it, a person’s subconscious mind will first imagine every word before it cancels out the idea to create an opposite one. In our left brain dominant society, we may refer to this common behavior as the process of elimination. However, the subconscious mind is like a child’s mind. It hears everything on a very simple level. If we tell a young child, Don’t spill that milk!, the next thing that often happens is the spilling of the milk. The child imagined spilling the milk and did not take the second mental step of imagining how not to spill the milk, since a child’s subconscious mind is more active than that of an adult’s.”
Understanding how the brain receives language, we can grasp how effective affirmative words are. Imagine the brain’s response to: Walk! or … Keep your hands to yourself!or … Remember to brush your teeth! As you think about how you formulate requests or instructions with your child, notice whether or not you come from the negative or positive. If you find yourself leaning toward the negative, be easy on yourself because we’ve all been conditioned that way. And, at the same time, it’s appealing to challenge yourself to shift into more supportive habits.
Which scenario would you rather experience? Imagine being back in middle school when life was already super challenging, thanks to social dynamics and bodily changes, and you fail a math exam. Your parents respond with anger, disappointment, or confusion by projecting: What is wrong with you? Why didn’t you study? You could have done better. This casts shame and blame on you, the child. Or, by comparison, your parents respond with compassion and encouragement by sharing: You are such a smart and capable student. Looks like you had a challenging exam. Let’s talk about your experience so we can better support you.
Children need, or rather crave, positive messages from their adults now more than ever. Not only is our language choice critical around daily instruction, but affirmative words are perhaps the single most positive influence on a child’s upbringing when it comes to developing their self-esteem and confidence. If you’re a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, teacher, mentor, coach, counselor, doctor, dentist, or even simply a child’s neighbor, and you regularly interact with a child or many children, then choosing positive words is vital to supporting the up and coming generation. Here are 25 wonderful affirmations for children – and even adults – to hear.
- You are so loved.
- You have brilliant ideas.
- You are capable.
- You ask good questions.
- I’m happy when you’re around.
- I am so proud of you.
- I am listening to you.
- You are allowed to feel your feelings.
- We manage your feelings together.
- You have many wonderful qualities.
- Mistakes are okay.
- I really appreciate you.
- You can safely say no.
- You are lovable.
- Your opinion matters.
- I know you try your best.
- You are safe.
- The family wouldn’t be the same without you.
- You love to learn.
- You are so much fun.
- You are strong.
- You are enough.
- I will always love you.
- I am grateful for you.
- Thank you.
We are shaping today’s children into tomorrow’s adults and it’s our responsibility to give them the best version of who they are. We can do this by immersing them in positive language, images, and messages which in turn empowers their communication skills and life choices. If this inspires you to shift your language choices with your child, then I know you’ll also happily find that your inner dialogue with yourself and outer dialogue with your spouse, friends, co-workers, etc., will positively change as well. And, if you’d like some assistance, I’d be happy to provide coaching, or even hypnotherapy, help. Check out my bio for information.
You may read this blog post as an article on OregonKid.com: https://oregonkid.com/2020/05/gift-your-children-with-confidence-and-empowerment-by-shifting-your-language/