This past week, I shared my new book with one of my single mothers. She chose to have me work with her from the beginning of A to Z, starting with AFFIRMATION. I asked her to give her definition of affirmation and then presented the various tools written to help caregivers demonstrate this quality. As I went through the tools, she noted the ones she was already doing and described seeing her use of these tools to engage her son and to help build her his confidence related to how he felt about himself and what he was capable of. She also identified not realizing what else she could say or do to affirm her son and his development.
This mother reflected further and spoke about “The Power of Words” being an integral part of being a parent that can be taken for granted. I acknowledged the significance of what she had said. As stated by Robin Sharma, “Words can inspire. And words can destroy. Choose yours well.” I have often challenged clients to consider if their words and/or actions are building bridges with others or tearing them down. For every interaction we as caregivers decide consciously or unconsciously how we are going to respond to the children in our lives.
The following are additional ideas in how to be present and proactive in being more affirming:
1) Come up with playful nicknames that use an adjective that begins with your child’s name such as “Awesome Aaron,” “Brave Bonnie,” “Curious Charles,” “Daring Debra.”
2) Create a family dictionary by identifying whose name would be after what word—Refer to image for A to C. (This is from an actual family exercise.)
3) Write child’s name vertically on paper and then come up with adjectives to match your child’s interest, abilities, and/or qualities such as KRIS—kind, realist, introvert, sensitive.
4) Create a family motto and/or mission statement to represent what you stand for as a family. “We stand for _____________!”
5) Model using your manners with “pleases,” “thank yous,” and “I appreciate when you ____________.”
Children respond better when they feel they are being treated with respect and compassion. They need caring adults to teach them how to speak and to respond in a respectful and supportive manner. These communication skills learned in the home carry over to other settings. How do you want to hear others describe your child and his/her words and actions? You play a foundational role in who your child becomes and how he carries himself out into the world.
I challenge you to talk to your children the way you like to be talked to.