WHY ARE WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT FOR KIDS IMPORTANT
Children and teens respond to what they hear (in fact, don’t we all?!). If a child is constantly told they are a disappointment and a failure – guess what? They become that. If a child is told they are bad, or worthless, they act accordingly. Say “oh they are just shy” in front of a child too many times they will indeed become timid and shy. You tell a child they are “bad” often enough over time and they will start to show this to full effect. This is why words of affirmation or words of encouragement for kids are so important and should be a vital part of our parenting tool kit.
WORDS OF AFFIRMATION
Words of affirmation are words of affection, praise and encouragement. I also believe that they are the words that help to shape us. Words have the power to build us up, and also to do us harm. Poor choices of words and the tone we say them in can create wounds that can take a long time to get over. Positive affirmations for kids builds them up. It shapes their view of themselves and their view of the people in their lives.
WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT
I think that it is vital that we speak words of encouragement for our kids. It can help to counteract the effects of bullying, and also to raise fully functioning adults. In 2018 IKEA did a “study” on plants where one group of plants was spoken nicely to and the other group had means things said to them. The experiment supposedly showed that bullied plants are not as healthy as other plants and therefore bullying is bad. Yeah, we know that. But, is this true science? Do plants hear us? Probably not, but nice study to show a point.
What if we did that experiment on children? It’s not going to happen of course but you only have to look a group full of children and how they interact with each other and with others in authority as to how they are spoken to. For me, whether it is in the classroom, on the playground, even in social settings, I can usually tell from body language, words used, and how the children play whether or not they believe in themselves. And that belief in themself comes from what they see and hear being said about them.
AFFIRMATIONS FOR KIDS
I believe in speaking words of encouragement over kids. I have done it for years when teaching, when babysitting, when running camps or children’s programs and with my own children. For me, I view it as “pulling out the gold” in the child.
As adults, when we believe in the children they see it and respond to it. When we respect children enough to show them true encouragement and affirmation, they will, in turn, respect us. Now, I am not saying that if we tell our children daily “You are a rock star” that they will become one, but I am saying they will respond to the positive affirmation and will be more confident and believe in themselves.
We have words of affirmations and encouragement that we speak daily over our girls. We call them declarations. They have changed over time; we usually keep adding and have taken away a few, but these are attributes we want the girls to know – things we believe about them. It is their gold and what we want to see shine. Currently, they are “You” messages but we will change them to “I” so the girls can speak them over themselves. They both are able to recite the whole declaration list and have since they were about 2 and a half years old.
You are brave, you are powerful
You are a miracle and you are smart
You are good at listening, you can make good choices
You are respectful and you can speak nicely with kind words
You are a good friend and sister and you can sleep through the night
You are bilingual and you are loved
Affirming In The New
We use these statements when facing new and perhaps scary situations. Like the dentist. It was the first time going for my girls and we had prepped and planned thanks to Peppa Pig and the story of when she goes to the dentist. When we got there it was a matter of reminding them that they are brave and powerful. Kira was initially a little fearful but she took this to heart and had no issue with x-rays and her teeth being checked. She even told the dental hygienist “I am brave and I am powerful!”. It was said with pride. Her declarations helped to overcome her initial fear. (Side note, it was affirming to me when the hygienist thanked me for doing what I was doing with the girls and that she had taken note that she would be doing that with her children if she ever had them.)
Soraya has used this at the doctor, even through tears saying “I am brave, I am powerful” as she psyched herself up for something she didn’t want. She knew that she was brave and powerful, even if it didn’t look like it, and that is what she said! I have heard them say these to each other, and they have said it to me! I was having a rough day a while back and was shedding a few tears. Kira came and climbed in my lap and said “Mummy, you brave, you powerful.” That ministered to my heart. (I won’t tell you what Soraya said just after that when she dropped something, because…ooops!)
DECLARATIONS OF TRUTH
We use our declarations when we are seeing “inappropriate” behaviors. We take the negative and turn it to highlight the positive, and turn them into learning opportunities…..”Oh dear, you are powerful but I see that you are choosing not to be powerful at the moment and not making the best choices – can you change that? Do you need me to be powerful for you?” (funnily enough, the answer is always no)
- “I know that you can have self-control but I see struggling to be in control right now. Do you need me to control you?” (and again, the answer is usually no!)
- “Woah, I know you are a girl who speaks nicely with kind words. Can you please change how you are talking?”
- or….”You are too amazing to be behaving like that. How can you make it right?”
I believe in speaking the positive attribute over them. I would rather use the word “respectful” or “respect” rather than “disrespect” because I want the affirmation foremost in their brain. As a result, the positive sticks and that’s what we want.
Now, I’m not going to speak things that I do not believe are true. I don’t say “You are the world’s best dancer!” but I will say “I love how you love to dance. It makes me happy to see you happy.” I won’t say “You are the best-behaved child I know” but I will say “Well done on using your manners and being respectful.” Let’s not over inflate egos by constantly speaking things that aren’t true. The effect of it is not really something that we want. We all want our children to be the best, but it simply isn’t going to happen. We want our words of encouragement to ring true for our kids, not be a grating noise.
It is easy to create an affirmative sentence or statement. Look at the behavior you are seeing and ask yourself what the opposite is. For example, when I see one of my girls being disrespectful I tell her “Woah, you are respectful and can speak nicely with kind words. Can you show me how you are respectful?” In other words, it is showing the good in her, and I am not harping on the negative – the disrespect.
How would you feel if you went days without something positive being spoken over you? I know that I end up feeling sucked dry in about 3 days of no positive affirmations. Take that thought and apply it to children who are still learning their identity, learning how to control their emotions, to grow up…..how does that make you feel? Can you imagine it? It breaks my heart.
Now, can you imagine if every night I said to the girls:
You are a coward, you are weak
You were a mistake and you are dumb
You are no good at listening and cannot make a good choice
You are disrespectful….etc??
I bet you cannot! At least, I hope not. Hopefully, you can see the power in positive words. But are we saying the good affirmations, the positive statements enough? Children need to hear them repeatedly so they can sink in. Repeatedly. Daily. Often. There is no quantifiable amount of times you need to say it. For some kids it takes 43 times and others a good million, or so it seems. Just remember that words of encouragement for our kids need and to happen repeatedly. Daily. Often.
LIST OF POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS
Can you come up with a list of affirmations for your children? Each family will have different ones based on values, culture, etc. What works for our children might not work for yours (like “You can sleep through the night” because we are still battling that). You don’t have to have 100 declarations or positive affirmations. Why not start with 5? Add to them as time goes on. Remove some as necessary. Your list will change as your children get older.
I have put together a list of positive affirmations or declarations as a printable download that you can use as a starting point. I am sure there are a thousand that I have missed. But that is what makes this fun. The list just gets longer and longer and more beautiful. I would love to hear what your family has as their declarations or words of encouragement for your kids. Drop a comment below and let me know! Here are some more ideas.
In conclusion, it is never too late to start with this. Have fun with it! Encourage away! Declare that truth and watch your children grow in confidence and their view of themselves and others. I know I will never stop speaking these over my girls……and any other child I come across. I want to see that gold shine!