Words fascinate me. How you use words defines you. Isn’t that amazing? My son and I were talking about his last night and it reminded me of the moment I realized how powerful words are. I don’t know the date and time, but I was listening to an audio series called Raising Positive Kids in a Negative World. It comes in a paperback and CD format. While I didn’t agree with everything I heard, I loved what I learned about how we speak and the words we use.
Why Toddlers Say “NO!”
Most of us speak negatively, especially to children. Ever wonder why toddlers use the word “NO” so often? Check your speech or the speech of the person who talks to them all day and it becomes apparent. Ever wonder why children seem to do the very thing you don’t want them to do? Get ready to have your mind blown; it’s because of the way you say it. The good news is you can change your child’s behavior simply by changing the way you talk to them. It’s incredibly simple but not always easy.
What do you really want your child to do?
Say your child is running around a store and causing a ruckus. What’s the first thing most parents say? They say, “stop running” or “don’t run in the store”. Guess what? You talked to them about 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? I think that’s revolutionary!
Experimenting with 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, but it’s powerful as well. How powerful? Keep reading and find out.
When your two year old says actually
One day we were eating lunch at a restaurant and 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 replied that we didn’t use the word no so my son decided to use the word “actually” instead. It was a humorous but poignant moment for all of us, and it set a precedent for the way we raised our children.
What would you say if you could speak your child’s future?
My middle child, who recently discovered a love of linguistics was telling me how amazed he was to find out that some tribes in remote areas had no words for the past and the future. They only had words for the present. Because they had 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. On the flip side, they hold no grudges because they have no words for things that happened in the past. He found this so intriguing, and it reminded me of that we choose our children’s future, in part, by the language we use.
Words are prophetic
This same son hated high school. His friend group had a lot of drama, and he disliked several of his required classes. He couldn’t wait to get out of there. Concerned that he wouldn’t want to pursue college, which we thought was best for him, we decided to focus on the benefits for him to go. We told him that when he got to college and finished his general education classes, he would love choosing to learn subjects he found interesting, and that is exactly what happened. In fact, his college grade point average is better than his high school grade point average. That is definitely a win in the parent column.
Use your worlds to change your world
So, what do you want to change in your world? Do you want your children to clean their rooms? Do you want them to put their toys away? Do you want them to be kinder to one another? Tell them what you want rather than what you don’t want. If you want or need help with that, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will work on it together. As always, thanks for reading, thanks for being you and have a great day.Click here for ways to support the Moving Toward Better mission.