One of the greatest joys of working with kids is knowing that positive influence can make them want to act with manners and politeness. It’s always a joy hearing a child say to their parent, “I want to be just like you!” However, a downside to that is when they notice you not living or talking in such a way that would make you proud if they did the same. I am guilty of this with my own daughter and have to be extremely aware so I can set a better example.
Sometimes what we say may seem appropriate to us as adults, but children may perceive a different message when they hear us. Phrases like “Well that was stupid!”, “Oh my god, I need to lose 20lbs,” or “I hate this outfit on me,” are often seen as ok to adults. But imagine hearing your kid, or any kid, saying those things. I imagine you would immediately turn to them and say, “Don’t say that about yourself!” Often times I hear kids say things like “I’m not smart,” “I look hideous in this shirt,” or “No one cares about me.” Sometimes, it’s just kids being kids. Sometimes, it’s something they’ve made up. But a lot of the time, it can be something they picked up and now believe is an ok way of talking to or about themselves and others.
Here are some tips I use to set a better example:
- If I would not say it to a child, I don’t say it to myself.
- If I believe I must be critical, I’m sure to be as be loving and graceful about it as possible. For example, Instead of saying “Wow, I need to lose 20lbs.” while tugging at my love handles or complaining about being fat, I instead try to say, “I’m going to eat better so I can feel healthier.”
- If you hear your child, or any child, say something that is not kind about themselves, ask them what makes them feel that way. Help them to reframe it so it’s loving and focuses on thinking positively. If a child says, “I’m dumb. I can’t do this math problem!” try encouraging them to say, “I’m smart and can figure this out, I just need a little extra help and practice!” instead.
Children, especially at a young age, pick up words and habits daily from their surroundings. Language is everything and I think we often forget just how powerful it is. As parents, we must remember that our words leave an impression on those around us, even ourselves. Being aware and practicing reframing critical statements into loving ones can go a long way towards setting a better example and feeling better about ourselves.
Jacquelyn Tyre-Perry is the School Age Recreation Specialist for the City of Manassas Park, Department of Parks and Recreation. She can be reached at 703-335-8872 or via email at J.Tyre-Perry@ManassasParkVA.gov