Words are fascinating. How people use words shows exactly how they feel about themselves and the world. Isn’t that amazing? There is a book and an audio series by Zig Ziglar called Raising Positive Kids in a Negative World. It comes in a paperback and CD format. While some of the series is antiquated now, the part about how we speak, the words we use and why your words matter are timeless.
Why toddlers say No so much
Most of us speak negatively, especially to children. Ever wonder why toddlers use the word “NO” so often? How do people speak to them all day ?Don’t do that! Stop doing that! NO! How many times does the average toddler hear those phrases? Ever wonder why toddlers do the very thing you don’t want them to do? Get ready to have your mind blown, because according to the book and many other experts, it’s because of the way you say it. Before you get defensive and say that’s that way things have been for generations, listen to the rest of the explanation. What if you could change your child’s behavior simply by changing the way you talk to them? Wouldn’t you love for the answer to your child’s behavior to be that simple. It can be, but it’s not always easy to stop criticizing.
What do you really want your child to do?
Say your child is running around a causing a ruckus. What’s the first thing most parents say? They say, “stop running” or “don’t run in the store”. Guess what? The child hears the word run or running, so they continue to run. Then it escalates, and you tell them, “if you keep running, I’m going to…”. Now they have a choice, run or suffer the consequence. They might stop or they might not, but what if you could avoid that situation altogether by one small word change? What if, instead of telling your child not to run, you tell them to walk? Isn’t that the behavior you want in the first place? It’s a small thing, but it’s revolutionary! Instead of criticizing them for what they are doing, you point them in the direction of the behavior you want.
An experiment with the word “NO”
Think of all the conflict you can avoid simply by rethinking how you say things. Think of all the confusion you eliminate by clearly stating what you expect rather than what you don’t want. I can tell you from experience this works. When my oldest child was two, we decided to do an experiment. We decided to stop using the word “No” and replace it with positive language. It was difficult at first when he was reaching for something to refrain from saying “No”. Instead we would use his name and tell him to do something else. We used words like “leave that alone” or “how about you come over here and play with your toys” or “you need to walk away from that”. It sounds simple,and it is, but it was difficult in the moment. What we didn’t expect was how powerful it would be. How powerful? Keep reading and find out.
When your two year old says actually instead of no
One day while eating lunch at a restaurant, the server asked me if my son wanted a soft drink with his meal. My son piped up and said, “Well actually, I would like chocolate milk.” The waitress looked at me and said, “Actually?” and I told her we stopped using the word. In the process, my son decided to use the word “actually” instead. It’s a humorous but poignant moment about how children adapt to the language they hear, and it set a precedent for the way we raised our children.
Why your words matter for your child’s future?
When my middle child discovered a love of linguistics he found out that some tribes in remote areas had no words for the past and the future, only the present. Because they have no words for the future, planning for floods, earthquakes or other natural disasters is impossible for them because they don’t understand the concept of planning for the future. They also hold no grudges because they have no words for things that happened in the past. What if choose our children’s future, in part, by the language we use?
This same son hated high school. His friend group had a lot of drama, and he disliked several required classes. He could hardly wait to graduate. Concerned that he wouldn’t want to pursue college, which we thought was best for him, we decided to focus on the benefits of higher education for him. We told him that when he finished his general education classes in college, he would enjoy learning about subjects he found interesting, and that is exactly what happened. In fact, his college grade point average was better than his high school grade point average, and he is living a life he loves. That is definitely a win in the parent column.
Your words matter for yourself too
We all want to improve our lives in some way. What do you want to change in yours? What if you focus on a healthier body rather than a skinnier one? How does that sound? What if you focus on wealth creation rather than getting rid of debt? Does the idea of wealth make you happy or are you so focused on debt that’s all you can see? If you are not where you want to be in life, your words matter to get yourself where you want to go. One of the greatest gifts you can give your child and yourself is to understand their personality and your own and use the best words to parent them. By learning that, you can help them develop their strengths while learning more about yours. Take the next step by reading Which of the four personality types are you? and by signing up for the Moving Toward Better email community below. Then move on to the book DISCover Your Team’s Potential or Positive Personality Profiles Finally, check out the Moving Toward Better DISC Assessment Page to schedule a personal assessment and consultation or schedule a training for your group or organization.Like what you see here? Click here for ways to support the Moving Toward Better mission.