Words are powerful and more so for children, who are at an age where they absorb everything around them to learn and evolve. Language can strengthen their self-esteem and motivate them or, on the contrary, paralyze and frustrate them. For this reason, it is key to speak to them positively and avoid pejorative comments such as “you are unfriendly”, “fearful” or “how clumsy you are”. “Children retain all the information from the environment, so it is not only important what is said to them, but also how and when it is done, since the tone of voice is key, as well as whether it is done alone or with more people”, explains Ana de la Tassa, child and adolescent psychologist at the Newlan International educational exchange center.
De la Tassa clarifies that minors are influenced by how they are spoken to since they are babies, because even if they do not understand the words, they perceive the tone of voice and the gestures that accompany them: “They capture the emotion of the sounds we emit, which are the words and their implied meaning. We are empathic beings from birth and we have the ability to understand the emotional states of others: “If a mother is very nervous about something that worries her, the child will realize it and even if the words point to the contrary and say ‘it’s okay , everything is fine’, the child will understand the opposite”, he adds.
The use of positive language, through phrases such as “you are doing very well, keep trying”, is a powerful tool that promotes their self-esteem: “It is convenient to celebrate their triumphs and learning; work on what involves difficulties with love so that he feels that he is supported and that he has control over his actions”.
Linguistic experts Richard Bandler and John Grinder created the neurolinguistic programming (NLP) methodology in the 1970s, which contemplates the importance of language when it comes to generating positive emotions in people. “It’s about learning to detect how the body of the person you’re talking to is reacting. We are little aware of the impact generated by what is said and the associated emotions when we express ourselves, such as when we often speak from negativity and not from positivity”, explains Fernando Sampedro, NLP specialist and trainer. Sampedro highlights the importance of avoiding pejorative terms and labels through language: “When children are told phrases like ‘you are a disaster’, a stimulus is generated in the neurons that translates into the acceptance of that identity described by the words, which will be reflected in his conduct. For this reason, as he explains, it is convenient to turn certain phrases around to achieve different results; express positively when the child behaves appropriately and tell him: “You are wonderful, you have done so well”.
From the moment they are born, children come standard prepared to communicate, even when they have not yet developed their linguistic potential. “The baby learns gestures from the parents repetitively, pointing or making faces, which determines how she will behave with herself and with the rest of the world,” argues the general health psychologist Ana Gómez, an expert in the child and adolescent population at the Cláritas Psychological Institute. . The specialist points out that positive or constructive language helps create a healthy bond with the parents and reinforces the child’s self-esteem, who will learn to communicate assertively: “He will respond more easily to the rules and will help him generate alternatives for resolving problems. problems, as well as to understand what it is to have empathy, to respect others and how to treat their social environment”.
The alchemical capacity of language in 10 sentences
Some classic phrases or expressions that are usually said to children can be turned around to approach a constructive language that transforms the situation and the emotions that the messages can generate. These are 10 examples:
- “Because I say so”. This statement does not give rise to the fact that the child knows the reasons for a prohibition. “The expression changes when arguments are provided such as: ‘It could be dangerous’, ‘We are talking with another person’, ‘We will do it later because there is no time now’, exemplifies the psychologist Ana de la Tassa.
- “You are stupid”. “This is a message that, even if it is said jokingly, can subconsciously undermine self-esteem in the long term,” warns this child and adolescent psychologist.
- “It’s your fault”. Guilt is one of the most hurtful emotions out there. In addition, it feels immovable and remains in the memory of the child. “Translating this expression into constructive language implies explaining the negative consequences of behavior so that they understand and internalize it without feeling guilty,” she adds.
- “Not now”. When a child needs to express something but the adults are busy to listen and attend to him, it would be a good idea to add: “You can wait five minutes and we’ll talk about it calmly, because I’m interested in knowing what’s happening to you,” De la Tassa qualifies. “In this way, the child is prevented from believing that he is not interested in what he has to say and that he cannot count on his parents,” she says.
- “Your brother has done better than you.” This phrase conveys the idea that the child must change and stop being himself. “The constructive aspect to highlight in this context are the specific abilities of the person,” highlights the psychologist Ana Gómez.
- “Don’t do that, you’re going to hurt yourself.” “Sometimes, silence is the best response and in this case it is convenient for children to learn through their experience the consequences of their actions and be able to face their fears,” continues Gómez.
- “Why are you so messy?” “This statement sets the tone for the child to integrate that one of his defects is disorder, so it is more constructive to teach him how to organize his space and lead by example,” this psychologist also explains.
- “Don’t cry, older children don’t.” “Crying is a valuable tool to regulate and express emotions and it is not convenient to send the message that it must be suppressed,” continues this expert.
- “In my time this was not so.” “With this expression, the child’s identity is devalued when it comes to resolving situations with his criteria,” adds Gómez.
- “The letter with blood enters and things without effort are not relevant.” These types of phrases put extra pressure on the child, who ends up losing focus on enjoying what he is doing. “The way to change it to positive is to say: ‘Value what you achieve, enjoying doing it’”, highlights Fernando Sampedro.
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