What Did You Say? The words we use impact our children

Calling all educators and parents! Do you ever wonder why your students or child seem to make what “we” see as the same mistakes or have an endless negative attitude? Granted there can be many reasons for the repeated poor choices or continued difficulties, but experience has shown me time and time again we can be contributing to the problem.

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We can help children move away from telling themselves,

“I can’t do this” to “I can do this!”

Here’s an example, I was recently working with a parent and her child. The child has ADHD and English is his second language. He is also reading 2 years below grade level. However, despite these challenges Jason approaches assignments and responsibilities with a look and attempt of serious determination.

I had invited my students’ parents into the classroom so they could teach the parents how to use our classroom “Learning Tools.” I have created these “Learning Tools” to have specific strategies displayed visually to promote self-regulation. (Self-regulation is the ability to control one’s thoughts, feelings and actions). Each student has a “Tool Box” filled with their “Learning Tools.” They choose and remove which tools will support them the most from the “Tool Box” to help them stay on task so they reach their present goal. The parents also had the opportunity to listen to the children’s songs that I am co-creating to align with these “Learning Tools.” Each of these tools and songs are utilized everyday by each student to help them practice the skills necessary to become effective learners. During the visit, each student took his/her “Tool Box” and used the appropriate reading tools to use while reading to his/her parent.

While Jason was working diligently to read a book on his functional level to his mom, he was using the specific reading strategies that were displayed on the “Learning Tool” named the “Reading Cue Card.” You may agree, it’s tremendous progress when a student/child remembers to use reading strategies and not just guess at difficult words or pretend they know what a story is about. I rotated to the table where Jason was reading to his mom to see how they were doing applying the reading strategies. As Jason was actually applying a reading strategy and sounding out the word slowly and steadily, his mom pleasantly looked up at me and began to tell me about how Jason’s younger sister is a great reader and can read really fast! Jason’s head tilted downward and his shoulders and back slouched as in defeat. Could you just imagine how Jason felt inside as he applied his strategies to sound out a 5 lettered word? I can’t imagine it was any affirming self-talk such as “I’m a good reader!” or “My mom must be so proud of me!” Undoubtedly, this is a loving, dedicated mother. She volunteered to take timeout of her day and come to school to be with and to support her child. However, the words we use in front of our children can be very powerful.

Often times, children are more sensitive than we realize. They absorb the energy and perceptions of the people around them (especially loved ones). If the child is not hearing positive feedback about his/her attempts to hurtle challenges then it is not positively teaching him/her to be self-affirming. We can help children move away from telling themselves, “I can’t do this” to “I can do this!” When students talk positively to themselves they will be ready and willing to use the strategies to be effective learners.

Here are several focus statements to encourage your students/child to battle the negative remarks about their performance that they may be exposed to: “It’s ok, I can do it! “This might look hard, but using my strategies always helps.” “Ignore distractions and focus.” These positive self-talk, focus statements can negate self-defeating negative self-talk that promotes repeating the same mistakes which hinders progress. By shielding the student/child from negative comments, teaching positive self-talk will help them build on their skills and not give up on themselves.

Article written by: Lisa NavarraLisa Headshot

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