The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.
The way we talk about them becomes their life stories.
This beautiful quote, shared by a friend put me to thinking. Why is language so important? Why are parents restless to hear child’s first word, first sound, and first chuckle? What do we leave the child with when we reprimand them? What is it that we offer the child with our cooing and cajoling?
While looking for latest researches to answer to questions, I came across the TEDxLaunceston Talk by Derek Patton. Derek Patton is a child and family psychologist working in Melbourne. In his talk he shares an experiment using positive psychology and offers great tips for both parents and teachers to initiate a Language Intervention with the children.
Very simply, Language intervention refers to using our natural, everyday spoken language with a slight difference. That is we care to stress upon using more positive affirmations and virtues when we talk to our child. Practicing these speaking behaviors both at home and school enhances a child’s character strengths. For instance, when you see your child playing with other children collaboratively, use that as an opportunity for language intervention. Say to the child oh wow, that is very kind of you OR I am so proud of you for being so helpful OR oh! how gentle you are with the object etc. Using these virtue words when the child is upset can be remarkable. On these moments, the child is reminded of his abundant potential and calms down. This is no way means that the child should un-acknowledge his emotion or disown their feelings but we are gradually teaching children to learn to gravitate towards virtues and savor its effect.
By doing this you have taught your child very important things. First, the child is now aware of their behavior and its impact on others. You have enabled an awareness of own Self and actions in them. The child knows the meaning and impact of being kind and gentle. If you keep using these words in various situations (at home or outside) the child develops an understanding of the concept of kindness. Instead of watching and imitating the other person, the child is creating and expanding his own definition of the virtue.
Second, the child understands that being gentle and kind (or any other virtue) is a capacity in him or her. For instance, if you wish to inculcate in your child the virtue of appreciating beauty and excellence in objects and people then a possible language intervention could be taking them out in the park/market or even your own house. Encourage them to hold leaves, touch flowers, watch birds, hold colored cloths and admire with them the beauty of those objects with words of appreciation such as wow, beautiful, so pretty, amazing etc. This simple act teaches the child to notice and appreciate beauty in all domains of life.
Third, if the parents and the teachers both use same words, the child learns that this behavior is valuable and hence would be intrinsically encouraged to be that person.
Thus, by using simple everyday words, you begin to create in your child a vocabulary of positive experiences and emotions.
1. The challenge of early conduct disorder: Derek Patton at TEDxLaunceston. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uptMwDiJn-I
Character Strengths: www.viame.org
Written by: Ms. Sugandh Gupta