How words influence your child’s inner dialogue

“I am done with it! Get dressed now! I’ve already asked you that 10 times, you are such a bad listener!”

This is ow my morning started. Getting the kids ready for school. Same old same old, every day. And even though I know I need to let go of the time pressure, it was a slip of the tongue. Without bad intensions, I am labeling my son. My stress is making it happen that I call him a bad listener… I then try to justify it, ooh, not that big of a deal, but it is.

Children are developing their ego and inner dialogue. And those who influence them are the ones who will help them build that inner dialogue. And that dialogue is like a river that is making its ways through the rocky mountains. The water will slowly make its way through the rocks and makes a path. That pathway will be deeper over time because the water will simply follow the way of least resistance and that path will be shaped for ages to come.

The unconscious mind of children works the same. If you keep repeating the same things over and over again, they will have that same inner dialogue. So my comment “You are such a bad listener!” is one that can hunt him if I keep repeating it long enough:

  • A small comment from a teacher that he needs to pay attention, in combination with my morning comment, can make him feel he is a poor student.
  • An innocent line of a friend about his language can give him the feeling that he is a bad friend.
  • A future dialogue with his girlfriend who shared that she feels unheard, can give him the feeling of not being good enough.

So… it does matter. It does matter a lot what I say to my kids. Let the language I use for my kids be filled with positive and encouraging words. A few lines to avoid that create a negative inner dialogue:

  • “You always…”
  • “You never…”
  • “You are such a…”

Using that language is forming his sense of being. He will create inner dialog like: “I am a bad listener”. That will be the base of his personality. Being aware of the power of this kind of language, makes it a great opportunity to help him develop a positive inner dialogue. We are all parenting with ups and downs. There is no guidebook for kids. So yes, I will forgive myself for these moments of stress. But I know I can make a positive impact and I don’t want to miss out on that because I am being taken over by anger or stress. The least I can do is be firm and phrase it something like this:

“I am done with it! I have asked you kindly four times. Please listen to me and get dressed now!”

And just skip the last part of him being a bad listener. And don’t forget to praise him, even after I needed to ask him five times in the end… Because I choose to give him the gift of some positive inner dialogue instead of a negative one that will influence his self-esteem and the way he sees himself in the future.

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Lieke Jansen

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