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Watch Your Language! - How Parents Can Help Kids Help Themselves

'I felt great until I walked into the classroom - then it all went wrong!'

No, this wasn't a teacher talking! It was a high school student on the day of an important exam.

She needed a good grade in a particular subject to qualify for a place at college, so she had worked hard and psyched herself up for success.

Then she blew it. She walked into the classroom where students were gathering before going to the exam hall, and allowed herself to be influenced by them.

She told me the atmosphere in the room was charged with negativity. People were sitting around with gloomy faces, some were wringing their hands and pacing up and down. Others were uttering such comments as:

'I'm going to fail, I just know it!'
'This is going to be SO hard!'
'Mr So-and-So said we've nobody to blame but ourselves.'
'Yeah, it's been an easy paper the last two years. They're bound to toughen up this year.'

So it went on. And the girl in question allowed herself to be sucked under. She reported a feeling of nausea as the confidence drained from her.

In fact, she never failed, but to everyone's disappointment, she never got the high grade expected of her.

However, she learned two very important lessons that day:

* Negative language produces negative results

* If we're not careful we can easily become 'infected' by the negativity of others.

Our experience in any situation is largely influenced by our attitude to it, (i.e. the way we FEEL, the way we react emotionally to the situation).

Our attitude is affected by our thoughts, our thoughts affect our language, and our thoughts are in turn affected BY our language.

And not only by our OWN language, but by the language of others - if we're not careful, that is.

Here in the UK teachers are used to hearing students say 'I'm stuck!' when working on a classroom assignment or exercise. A challenge has been encountered and the student is having difficulty finding a solution.

Fair enough, ask the teacher for help, that's what they're there for. Many a parent has given their kids that advice.

But what's the effect of saying 'I'm stuck'?

What message does that send to the brain?

As a teacher, I've experimented with this many times - and the results are always the same!

Whenever I hear someone say 'I'm stuck' I usually say, 'Right, I'll be with you shortly.' And I leave them to it.

Other kids will say 'Can you help me, please?' and I'll give them the same reply.

Now, without fail, the students who were 'stuck' sit and vegetate until the teacher comes over. After all, they've given their brains a message: 'Down tools! There's nothing more we can do right now.'

The kids who say they need help, however, are always to be found pondering over their work, trying to work out a solution.

That's the influence of language!

I should add, I only ever hear the cries of 'I'm stuck!' in a class that's new to me. Very quickly the students learn that they're not trees, so they're not stuck!

This is not a denial of reality - it's simply a way of INTERPRETING reality, and a much better, more effective way at that.

As a writer, I often hear people say they'd love to write a book. Recently one young woman said exactly that, then followed up with '. . . but I don't suppose I ever will.'

She was rather offended when I replied, 'No, I don't suppose you will.'

However, we talked about negative language, and she was grateful for the advice. As Henry Ford so aptly put it: 'If you think you can't - you're right!'

So how can we, as parents, help in our child's education and in life in general?

Help them monitor their language. And, as always, give them a good example by keeping our own language positive! Gently point out that 'I hate Chemistry!' will only reinforce a negative attitude to that subject.

'I need to work at Chemistry' will make it easier to do just that!

When kids complain they are bored, encourage them to think, 'I could be more interested in this!' The message to the brain? - 'Come on, rouse yourself! Take an interest.'

So far, so good. But what about the negative language of others, which can so easily throw our kids off guard.

Here's a simple technique that, believe me, really works!

When you encounter a negative atmosphere or negative language, try to remove yourself from it. But if you can't, just imagine you are enclosed in a plastic bubble or glass bell jar - double or triple glazed if necessary!

Tell yourself that your positive contributions can go out and affect others, but their negative comments bounce off and don't get near you.

Try it. It works . . .

Happy parenting!

Why do some parents and children succeed, while others fail? Frank McGinty is an internationally published author and teacher. If you want to develop your parenting skills and encourage your kids to be all they can be, visit his web pages, ml


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