Words of affirmation can have a huge impact on our kid! Listed as one of the five love languages by which people, young and old, receive and give love, as well as being backed by research in fields as diverse as positive psychology and athletic performance, words are powerful.
And not just any old words. The idea is not to fill air, over-inflate egos or lie. Our beliefs about ourselves influence how we act towards others but also how others act towards us. We can create positive self-fulfilling prophecies for our children and help build their confidence and resilience with the words we choose to use with them.
The goal is to be sincere. You know your child. Focus on what makes them unique. Focus on encouragement, not just praise. It’s not just about instant success but also about trying, failing and then trying again.
“Affirmation, in both words and actions, is the power to let your children know they are accepted, loved, and supported.” – Casey Gwinn, The Power of Affirmation in the Life of Child
And it’s not just their thoughts you are influencing, it’s their brains! Research shows that practicing affirmations actually can change our brain’s neural connections. The important thing to note is that this means both good and bad statements, repeated often enough, change not only what we believe about ourselves and often how we act, but also our brain’s structure.
Athletes use words of affirmation to visualize success in competition and to give themselves a positive pep-talk. Jack J. Lesyk, Ph.D., of the Ohio Center for Sports Psychology notes that:
- Maintain their self-confidence during difficult times with realistic, positive self-talk.
- Talk to themselves the way they would talk to their own best friend
- Use self-talk to regulate thoughts, feelings and behaviors during competition.”
This, along with other mental skills such as concentration and positive attitude, lead to improved performance, as well as resiliency when there are setbacks. These skills, built on the words and stories we tell ourselves, can also help us deal with and process emotions and manage anxiety.
Building the habit of affirmation with your child(ren) also helps build self-awareness and the idea of choice in our thoughts and attitudes. Cognitive behavioral therapy is built on the premise that you challenge negative self-talk (that little voice in your head) and thus change your behaviour. Wouldn’t it be great if the voice in your child’s head was reinforced (or challenged, if needed) with love and affirmation.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
Another bonus to being intentional with words of affirmation? Connection. Research into marriage, children and even business teams, shows that you need to a ratio of 5:1 positive to negative interactions to maintain connection, motivation and healthy relationships. Taking a moment out of the craziness of life to look your babies in the eyes and build them up is worth it. Knowing an adult loves them, thinks they are capable and strong and shares what makes them awesome and unique does wonders for building self-esteem and shaping their self-image.