• You become what you are told. (AAP)Source: AAP
Words have power; how we use them matters, especially when it comes to kids.
Kemi Nekvapil

16 Aug 2016 - 10:06 AM  UPDATED 16 Aug 2016 - 10:07 AM

There is a saying: “You are what you eat”, but I also believe that you become what you are told, especially children. They are sponges. They will believe the words of those closest to them.

A story told by the motivational speaker Jim Rohn has stuck with me through my life.

He was on stage delivering a speech, when he asked a member of the audience to share with everyone the impact their parents had on the way they had chosen to live their lives.

One man stood up and said that from the age of three he loved ball games, especially baseball, and every time he hit a ball his father would say to him, “Son, if you keep hitting balls like that, you are going to be a pro one day”. At every ball session, his father would routinely ‘speak him up’. “If you can play for this long and not get tired, you’re going to be a pro player one day … With your sportsmanship to losing matches, you’re going to be an inspirational team player one day.” This man had become one of America’s top baseball players. His father was right.

Words have power; how we use them matters.

Another man stood up to share his story. “My father always told me, ‘The way you carry on, you’re going to end up in jail.’”  He routinely ‘spoke me down’. “If I see you behaving like that, I will call the police myself. There’s a cell that already has already has your name on it.” This man had been in and out of prison for most of his adult life, and although he was attending the seminar to change his life around, his father had been right.

I remember at watching a tired-looking mother with her four children at a London train station; she grabbed the one who seemed to be her youngest by the arm and screamed at him, “You have completely ruined my life!”.

As a parent, I know how hard it can be to raise children, and for some parents putting food on the table or a roof over their children’s heads is where their main focus is. Regardless of our resources, though, we all have the capacity to raise children with a healthy self-esteem, to believe in themselves. This will strongly influence the adults they become.

It comes down to the words we use.

We may routinely tell a female child that she is beautiful, which of course is not intended to have a negative impact, but it may lead that child to believe that her external beauty is what is valuable about her.

“You are intelligent and kind and beautiful” gives more depth and worth than “you are beautiful” alone.

We may compare siblings to each other in innocent ways: “Your brother is very organised; he will have a successful career”. This may lead the sibling to believe that he will not be successful, that he is not good enough.

Of course, as parents we can never predict how our children are going to respond to what we tell them. But we can examine what we routinely say to them and see if there is some room for improvement.

“You are intelligent and kind and beautiful” gives more depth and worth than “you are beautiful” alone.

“Your brother is very organised and will have a successful career, and with your energy and way of connecting with different people you will be able to do so many incredible things in the world”. No-one appears to be less; one brother is not better than the other.

Words have power; how we use them matters.


Today’s coaching questions:

1. What was the most negative thing you were told about yourself as a child, and how has that impacted your life?

2. What was the most positive thing you were told as a child, and how has that impacted your life?

3. What can you say to a child in your life today that will give them a feeling of being loved, valued and accepted for who they are?


Meet Kemi, our life coach, delivering real-world motivation in her weekly column, Endlessly Human. Follow her on Twitter @keminekvapil.


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