Have you heard that old saying: “Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me!”. It’s utter tosh. Sticks and stones may break our bones or cause physical damage but the worst damage of all is the mental and emotional damage caused by words. That’s why in hypnobirthing and baby massage I talk about positive communication: using positive affirmations during your pregnancy, your labour, your birth and, afterwards, the importance of positive, nurturing touch and communication with your baby.
I saw a post on Instagram recently about this by The Gentle Mamma where she put up an infogram about what words you can use: for instance, instead of ‘Be quiet’, try ‘Can you use a softer voice?’ and instead of ‘What a mess!’ try ‘It looks like you had fun! How can we clean up?’
This helps to promote dialogue rather than yes or no responses, which helps children to think critically about what they really want and/or need.
We are the only mammal that is born with 90% of our brain undeveloped. The first five years are the most important time when our brains are developing massively. This lessens between five and seven and then decreases considerably after that. So those first five years are really important. They’re critical to our development and future success.
For decades, researchers have been looking at the long-term effects of a child’s environment and we now know that what we do, what we say, how we act and what our children experience day-to-day does actually predict how they will perform later in life. When children receive positive interactions with adults who talk with them, read to them and take time to teach concepts, these children have a better chance to succeed in school and as adults in the workplace.
The more we talk to our children, the more they will talk to us, to their friends, to their teachers. We will be helping to build their confidence and to help them to navigate confidently and positively through life.
This includes not just telling your child yes, no and stop but explaining why things need to be done and using gentle language. This demonstrates respect for the child (after all, they are people too) as well as helping little ones with their developing speech.
You can reframe what you would like them to do from an order to a friendly invitation to be part of a team. So rather than saying ‘Get your bowl from the cupboard’, you could say ‘I’ve got the cereal and the milk - can you please get your bowl?’. This completely reframes what you’ve said and you are more likely to get what you want.
It isn’t necessarily easy and can be challenging, especially if you’re sleep deprived and tired, but it does have such a positive effect all around.
How about it? Are you going to have a try?