As a parent, I’ve noticed a strange phenomenon: My children will often believe what anyone else tells them over what my wife and I say.
Conversations sometimes go like this:
“Daddy, did you know the Earth is flat?”
“Actually, honey, the Earth is round.”
“No, it’s not. Mrs. Smith told me it was flat, so it has to be flat.”
Does this ever happen at your house?
I mean, whether my kids are talking to Mr. John or Little Johnny, everyone seems to know all the answers except dear ol’ mom and dad.
I have noticed one exception to this rule though. My children seem to always believe what I tell them about…them.
If I tell my son he’s funny, “I’m funny!” he says enthusiastically.
If I tell my daughter that she’s a great reader, she’s proud to let others know. “My daddy says I read really well.”
And, that’s why ‘shy’ is a four letter word at my house.
You see, my daughter, Kaylee, has a tendency to act shy, but we never tell her she is shy. Why?
Well, I’m sure you’re familiar with the following quote from Henry Ford.
“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”
If Emily and I constantly tell our daughter she’s shy, it will impact her way of thinking and her approach to things now and always.
Right now, shy is a tuck behind my leg when someone I know tells her hello, but one day she’ll be up late in a panic the night before presenting her 8th grade science project in front of her class…because she’s shy.
One day she’ll be heading to her first job interview convinced it won’t go well…because she’s shy.
All throughout her life, she’ll think she can’t because she’s shy. And, she’ll be right of course because whether you think you can or think you can’t…
As parents we often point out these flaws in our children in an attempt to make them or ourselves feel better about a certain situation. I mean, I don’t want my friends to think she is being rude when she hides behind my leg instead of returning a hello. So a simple “she’s just shy” helps us both feel better, right?
“He’s not a good test taker.”
“She’s not good at math.”
“He can’t hit a curve ball.”
I mean, these phrases are usually very innocent, but the unintended consequences can last a lifetime. It’s a five-second comment and it’s done for me, but those three words shape Kaylee’s self perception every time they are spoken. “She’s just shy.”
You see, life will require my children to overcome their weaknesses and that’s why it’s part of my duty as their father to build up my children, to help them find ways to overcome challenges instead of constantly bringing attention to them. Often enough the world is going to tell Kaylee she isn’t good enough, that she “can’t.” The last person she needs to hear it from is me.
I mean, if a child’s parents aren’t going to be a positive voice in their ear, then who is?
You know, my kids may not always listen to me when I’m talking about trivial things, but they are listening carefully to the way I describe them, especially to others. They are forming their opinion of themselves based heavily on the words I speak about them. That’s a huge responsibility. And it’s a reminder to choose my words carefully.
What do you think? Are there any four-letter words at your house? How do you build up your children?