|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
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
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
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
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 . . .
About the Author
Frank McGinty's writes motivational books for both parents
and teenagers. If you want to develop your parenting skills
and encourage your kids to be all they can be, visit his