Tip No 2 is using words mindfully and wisely
Empowering Children Tip No 2 is about using words mindfully and wisely. Words not only say who we are – they also create who we become! It is the words, emotions and actions to which children are exposed in the first seven years of their lives, that has the biggest impact on creating the person they become in their adult life.
Misperceptions are easy to absorb for a young child
In the womb, and for the first 7 years, children are like sponges soaking up every word and experience into their sub-conscious mind, forming groundwork for the rest of their life. They take in everything as truth, regardless of whether this is so or not, because their conscious mind is not developed enough to discern what is true, or not true. Experiencing pleasant or unpleasant events, if experienced often and with high emotion, creates a perception within the subconscious mind of how life is; which in turn creates the belief which is held regarding life. These beliefs determine a child’s thoughts and emotions regarding their life experiences, and how they respond in either a positive or negative way.
Many children grow into adults holding misperceptions which were unwittingly programmed into their subconscious mind during their formative years, leading them to believe life is tough; they are not worthy; they are dumb or unable to achieve what they want. These misperceptions become limiting beliefs creating numerous problems, including lack of self-esteem, self worth and self-confidence, leading to a life that is not joyful, contented or fulfilling.
I will give an example of how easy it is for children to unwittingly absorb misperceptions, through lack of awareness on the part of adults. This is not a criticism of adults, as until now, this knowledge of how the mind operates has not been available to the majority of people, and no one can be blamed for what they do not know.
Mindfulness makes all the difference
Johnny is 3 years old and Mum and Dad are having friends over for a BBQ in the evening. Mum is busy preparing food and cleaning house. She asked Dad to mow the lawn and make the yard tidy. Dad had other things he felt were more important, and is not in a good frame of mind; always when one feels this way, it seems everything goes wrong. The mower refused to start and frustration is the name of the game. Tools are set out to work on the problem. Johnny’s is right there by the side of the man who is his hero. Dad’s frustration mounts and anger seeps into the scene. He asks Johnny to hand him a spanner, and Johnny responds with a screwdriver – he just grabbed the first tool he saw. Anger and frustration spill over and Dad shouts with high emotion, “Get out of my way, you stupid child. Don’t you know the difference between a spanner and a screwdriver?”
Johnny is shattered by the words and emotion of his Dad, and runs sobbing to his Mum.
Now we have 2 ways this scene can evolve.
Mum is very perceptive to his needs and emotions; she folds him in her arms, comforts and reassures him that Daddy did not mean to upset him. Daddy is just in a hurry and frustrated that things are not running smoothly. She gives him to time to process his emotions, waiting for his sobs to settle and for him to gain a feeling of peace and comfort. She includes him in her activities, giving him positive reinforcement of his worth by making him feel wanted and loved.
Scene No 2:
Mum is preoccupied with her agenda, and feeling pressure to get things done for the planned activities. When Johnny runs in sobbing she dismisses him by shouting, “Just go away and play,” before turning her back on him. This reinforces a perception within his sub-conscious that he is a nuisance; that he is unwanted and unloved. It may even program a perception into his subconscious mind that he is useless and stupid. His conscious mind is not developed enough to tell him this is not so, and his sub-conscious mind, without the rebuttal of an adult, will accept those perceptions as true.
Johnny cannot articulate the emotions of what is a traumatic event for him. He responded to the flight phase of the flight, fight and freeze syndrome. In a child under seven to eight years, the fight part of this syndrome is not established. Johnny now has to be helped, and allowed to cry or shake to release the pent up adrenaline created for him to flee. If this process is not permitted he will automatically go into the freeze mode, which locks into his subconscious mind. The next time he has a traumatic event, his subconscious mind may freeze, and to an unaware observer, he will appear to be ‘a dumb child’.
How often have you seen a child lock into this phase when affected by, to them, a traumatic event? In most cases the adult response was, “Don’t just stand there- go and do something.” Adults rarely have the knowledge to recognise the freeze event in their child which is a response to some external trigger in their environment; a fright, a nightmare or something almost insignificant, such as raised voices or parental fighting.
Johnny’s perception may create limiting beliefs formed by this experience that will affect his way of seeing life, especially if these limiting beliefs are reinforced over and over again. If it is a ‘one-off’ experience it will stay in the memory, but its effect will vary, depending on what other experiences he has in those early years.
A second illustration of Empowering Children
Alice is 12 years old. Her family have just moved location and Alice is to attend a new school. She has an introverted personality and is happy and comfortable in familiar situations. Today is the first day at her new school. She is feeling uncomfortable and unsure of where to go and what to do. Her new principal took her to her first class and introduced her to the teacher and pupils where she was given a buddy, and made to feel secure and comfortable.
Her day was going well until she entered the class of another teacher. This teacher has a very different style of teaching from the others she had encountered. He likes to challenge his students with a question and answer format, with his quick wit dominating the proceedings. The first question was fired quickly as soon as the students were seated. Almost immediately, he pointed to Alice and asked for her answer. Alice barely had time to comprehend the question, much less search for an answer. She looked uncertainly to the teacher, seeking some reassurance. “What’s the matter, Miss? The cat got your tongue?” was the response.
The students erupted in laughter. Alice felt her face getting hot and tears stung the back of her eyes. She hung her head, trying to hide the feelings of shame and despair. Her heart closed and her mind shut down; she felt stupid, uncomfortable, and like a square peg in a round hole. During recess she tried to be as inconspicuous as possible, but was unable to avoid the attention of some rowdy boys who enjoyed teasing her. She felt miserable and despondent and was feeling reinforcement of the original hurt and embarrassment.
Again, the incident could have 2 different endings
On returning home, if she found love and support that was non-judgemental and consistent with a mindful attitude towards the words spoken, she would be allowed to discuss the event and her reaction to it. The situation would be explored and her emotions acknowledged. In a caring and compassionate way she would be helped to find the strength and strategies, she needed to deal with the situation. She would feel secure in knowing, if the situation arose again, and she was unable to control her responses, she could rely on others for continued help.
If on the other hand, she was met with criticism for being ‘too soft’ and told to ‘get over it.’ Her sub-conscious mind would develop a perspective that she was weak and not worthy of being treated with kindness and compassion. She could go through the whole of her life expecting to be treated this way and her energy field would indeed, attract this to her.
Being mindful of the power of your words and your ability to use them wisely, is the greatest gift you can give your child. Children are can only behave and respond to situations in the way their sub-conscious mind is programmed, which will have an enormous input on the way they live their lives as adults .