Vigilints Heart Child Development - How we use our words affects our kids' emotional health

words we use with kids matter

Caring Words Empower and Help Self Esteem.
  Mean Words hurt deeply and may hurt for a lifetime.

Parents affect their children in countless ways and one way is through speech.  Positive language empowers kids and helps shape their character in a positive way.  Casual language even if it isn’t meant to be hurtful could potentially hurt the children and make them timid, depressed, and leaves them feeling lonely.  

Regardless of our own upbringing and regardless of what neighborhood we live in or grew up in, we can choose to modify the way we speak to our children. We can choose to provide the best possible foundation for our children’s development.

Why are words so important?  Why is tone, inflection, and sound level so impactful? 

Children’s self-image is based on how they are treated by their parents.  When children feel that they delight their parents just the way they are, they feel cherished.  If they feel that their parents are concerned about their well-being and will do everything in their power to make sure the child is safe and nurtured, the child feels cozy.  If the parents hug the children, hold them and squeeze them the child feels happy. If the parent strokes their cheeks before they fall asleep and touches their forehead to make sure the child is okay, they feel loved.  Positive minded children excel in school, are more confident and make friends more easily. They enjoy better lives over the long term.

On the other hand, if a parent signals to the child that the child is a burden the child feels terrible about being born.  If the child is neglected the child feels lonesome. If the child’s needs are barely met in a way that signals that they are a nuisance the child will suffer terrible self- image problems that may last a lifetime.  The sad fact is that children who are affected by adverse childhood experiences are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and even imprisonment. (1)  Children who are neglected, abandoned, or abused often suffer for decades in their adulthood. (2)

Parents have it in their power to influence their children’s self-assessment and subsequently their children’s self-worth. Children feel loved if they know that they delight their parents just because they are precious gifts adored by the parents the way they are.  If on the other hand they feel they can only be loved if they “do something to earn the love” they don’t learn to value themselves just for who they are, they will equate their self-worth with their ability to please an outside person.  They will lack the core foundation to live a happy life regardless of outside circumstances.  Children who build intrinsic self-worth are emotionally strong and will try things, since they are not afraid of failure.  Children who don’t build this intrinsic self-worth will feel hopeless, helpless and dependent on affirmation from other people.   

Parents can love their children for who they already are and praise them for actions they did well.  Separating this in our speech is very important to help kids build that all important intrinsic self-worth, that is separate from anything they do or own.

Positives Self Esteem Negatives Self Esteem

Try it again.
You will figure it out, try again!
I feel so proud of you!
Next time it is going to work out!
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!  

You are so clumsy.
You are so clueless!
Don’t embarrass me!
Why bother trying, you are just no good.
Why are you always so stupid?

Here are some easy to understand examples of speech patterns that indicate your child needs more positive attention.

Positives Self Esteem

Negatives Self Esteem

I will figure this out!
It’s my turn!
Look, how tall, strong, etc. I am!
Next time it is going to work out!
I am going to check who wants to come out and play with him.

That’s never going to work!
I never get a turn!
Everybody it taller, stronger, etc. than me!
No point in trying, it’s never going to work.
Nobody ever plays with me!

 (Source: Klaus Fischer, Das Familien Handbuch)

Children look up to their parents they seek their parents’ approval.  Makes sure you use empowering language and show the kids that they can overcome hurdles through perseverance, practice, and by soliciting help when needed. Give them help when they need it. Allow them to trust that you will be there for them each time, as soon as you can.  Communicate with them honestly, but not rudely.  While the little negative phrases may not seem like a big deal, they actually will affect the child throughout their life time.

The more you believe in your kids, the more successful they will become.  Show that you believe in them by using positive words and phrases that are designed to encourage and empower them. Never put them down.  Put downs create negative self-talk inside of them that will drag them down, when you are not even there anymore. 

Check your speech for how you use your own words.  Check your thoughts on how you evaluate and influence yourselves.  One positive side effect will be that by becoming aware of your speech patterns you will improve your own moods and state of mind as well.  Often negative self-talk has been passed down through generations.  You can turn this around and start a new positive family tradition.

3) More tips from Klaus Fischer in German