Children over-hear lots of things that they probably don’t need to hear. Some hear their parents worry about money, or the pus in the neighbour’s aunt’s cat’s sore toe. Some children get to hear their favourite people ridiculed. Still others get to hear themselves be described as: naughty, thick, lazy, or whiney. Instead, what about (purposefully) letting them over-hear compliments about themselves.
Last night the Owl was away from home, alone, for the first time. The Hare thought it was brilliant. He got to watch some t.v. (a rare event), he got to eat his dinner in front of the t.v.(unheard of), and he was up a bit later listening to extra chapters of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It was fun, but it also could have gone to custard. At bedtime, sure enough, the Hare began to get a little twitchy: he mucked around brushing his teeth; he started to madly twist and turn when he got into bed; and he started to make funny little noises. So, when Craig came inside with the Butterfly and offered to take over the bed-time routine I happily agreed. Craig and I passed each other in the hallway, and instead of saying something like, “he’s knackered” or, “he’s a bit anxious,” (which would have been perfectly reasonable things to say) quite loudly, I said, “He’s had a bit of t.v. and extra story, and he’s managing really well. I think he’ll go to sleep quickly because he’s so calm.” And bingo, 10 minutes later, Craig appeared again. Our lad happily parented to sleep: quickly and calmly.
Children do hear what we say to other people. They particularly listen for things said about themselves. And then they try to live up to the role we have assigned them: the cute one; the clever one; the shy one; the one we worry about the most…
I have no idea where I got this idea from, but it works. Frequently mention that your children are displaying the values you want them to display – to other adults (my favourite is to grandparents over the phone) – within their hearing – and watch those values become instilled in their personality.
And it is important that we mention values.
The difference between the messages received when we say, “he’s clever” and “he works hard” is huge. One day ‘the clever ones’ might find something new a bit challenging – many, in that position, avoid trying rather than discover they are no longer clever. But the ‘hard worker’ will generally rise to the challenge.
(Some values you could start with: honesty, kindness, diligence, self-assurance, reliability, consideration, self-control, mindful-ness, perseverance and loyalty.)
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