The words we use can have a significant impact on those who hear them. Whether we are talking to ourselves, our children, friends or family, the words we choose can have an unseen impact as our minds believe what we hear.
If we choose to use negative language then our minds will believe it. That can be anything from, ‘I’m fat and can’t lose weight’ to ‘don’t get upset’. In the first instance we are telling ourselves we can’t lose the weight, therefore our mind will do everything it can to keep us at our current weight. With the second instance we are effectively saying we shouldn’t get upset, that it’s wrong to get upset when we know it isn’t. This is a confusing message to give a child especially.
Instead of using negative language we can flip it on its head and say it in a way that acknowledges the difficulties but also shows that it’s achievable. For example ‘I am releasing the extra pounds with ease’.
Obviously the words you choose need to meet your situation. Our body hears everything our mind says, so when we tell it we can’t do something we can’t, conversely when we tell it we can, we can.
Where we are ignoring feelings like ‘don’t get upset’ we can change that to ‘it’s OK to feel sad sometimes’. Accepting and acknowledging the feeling is so important, particularly when we are talking to children. They are learning about emotions and we need to support them with that. The same is true with adults.
Here are some ways to change the words to support our children (and ourselves):
Stop crying ——> I can see this is hard for you.
Stop shouting ——> let’s both take a deep breath and then you can tell me what’s happened.
You’re fine, stop complaining —–> are you OK?
Right, stop that now —–> I can see you’re struggling, would you like a hug?
These are just some examples of how you can change the language to support your child and acknowledge their emotions rather than ignoring them.
When we ignore them we are effectively saying, ‘you’re emotions aren’t important’ or ‘your emotions are wrong and you shouldn’t feel like that’.
Either way, we are giving them the signal that they shouldn’t have those feelings. In the longer term that will not help with their emotional development and could cause mental health difficulties when they are older. Being able to express our emotions and knowing that it is OK to have emotions, is a critical part of our development and important for our physical and mental health.
Next time you hear yourself using the negative sentences, whether that’s to yourself or someone else, try and stop and change what you are saying. It’s not easy and something I constantly work on, but I can see a difference in myself, as well as with my son and those around me. You get a very different response when you say ‘are you OK?’ rather than telling someone they are OK.