Are Your Words Encouraging Your Child to Succeed or to Fail?

I was reminded this week, more than once, about how powerful our choice of words are as parents talking with, to, and about our children.

z-handwritingwithouttearsWhen your child struggles with something, they know it.

 They can see that others are doing something they aren’t yet able to do.

 They hear and see the disapproval or the frustration when they don’t have the skills that others expect them to have.

I experienced this first with J, my oldest son, as he not only was a delayed reader but he is a big guy.

He looks a good two years older than he is, so people’s expectations – and even my own – are higher for him.  And I had to keep on top of my words – to ensure I was encouraging and not inadvertently tearing him down.

And lately this has become something I’m having to work on with Z.  Last week, his dad asked me about how he can help him with his reading, because anything related to reading and writing at cub scouts was causing Z frustration.

My point was to focus on anything we could do to help Z in public and then encourage Z to let him know that reading  might be hard now, but he’ll get it.

 He knows he can’t read – yet. He knows that the other boys can do things he can’t do -yet. But what he needs to be reminded of is that he can do things other boys can’t do yet or aren’t easy for them. He needs to be reminded that he will learn to read.

It’s not that he “CAN’T” do something, it’s that he “is still working on it”.

But yet, as I spoke these words  to my husband, I also realized that I’ve slipped a bit.  So I’m trying to make a concentrated effort to encourage Z with my choice of words. 

We as parents become the voices in our children’s heads – long after they are grown. The words we use have the power to stay with them and be the words they repeat in their own heads.

This week, Z was frustrated because he is “not good at tying shoes”, my words back to him are, “that’s okay, that’s why we practice. You’ll get it.” And I reminded him that J and K, and even I had to practice at it until it gets easier. And I still can’t tie shoes the way Daddy does, and Daddy can’t tie shoes the way I do.

Yesterday, Z was talking to me about a new schoolwork program that we are testing out, and how much he liked the science part, but the reading he’s “not good at”. 

I reminded him that there are plenty of famous scientists and inventors who struggled with their schoolwork, and with reading particularly, but they got it, and so would he.

He liked that. He liked knowing that he’s not alone, that others have gone before him and succeeded and he could to, and that in time it would become easier for him.

While it’s important to understand our children’s barriers so that we can help them overcome them, it’s also important to ensure that our words don’t defeat our purpose.

Teaching our children the words, the self-talk, to get them through a challenge is just as important as learning the academics or hard skills themselves. The words we use, add to their own self-talk, and have that power to move them towards to success or to set them up to give up and fail.

I know this is an area that I particularly have to continue to work on.  Am I alone?

Are your words encouraging your child to succeed or to fail? Are you building your child up or tearing them down?

Food for thought.

…Shannon

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