The power of words

When talking to parents I sometimes tell the story of how clumsy I was as a child. If there was something to trip over or walk into, I would be the one to do it. I was one of those kids with everlasting scabs on knees and perpetually purple shins. I couldn't catch a ball to save my life (my brother says), and I was always dropping things - I still remember being chosen to serve dinner to a group of young teachers who had come for interview at my school, and tipping a plate full of fish and chips onto the best suit of one of the hopeful candidates.

Not surprisingly, I frequently heard the words 'you're so clumsy'. And as young children do, I believed them...so much so that it took me until I was nearly 40 to stop falling over! The belief that I was clumsy was instilled in me from an early age, and I lived up to it. Such is the power of words.

As parents, we need to think about what we want our children to believe about themselves. If a child repeatedly hears parents and others say 'he's a tearaway', or 'she just can't sit still', this will become their internal monologue, and they will believe themselves to be that person. If, on the other hand, parents note and comment on the good things they see in their child ('you're waiting so patiently'; 'you are so polite') then this is the image a child will build of himself, and the one he will live up to.

The power is in our words!