To apply this quote to ourselves promotes positive thinking & positive growth.
To apply this quote to our children brings forth the profound realization that the thoughts & feelings we induce in them now, from the way we speak to them & look at them, to the attention we do or do not pay them, and the confidence or shame we instill in them, are laying the foundation for their future way of thinking. Ultimately, we are influencing what kind of future they make by the way we are training them to think. One of my favorite poems is by Author, Dorothy Law Nolte, Children Learn What They Live.
Children Learn What They Live
If a child lives with criticism,
He learns to condemn
If a child lives with hostility,
He learns to fight
If a child lives with ridicule,
He learns to be shy
If a child lives with shame,
He learns to feel guilty
If a child lives with tolerance,
He learns to be patient
If a child lives with encouragement,
He learns confidence
If a child lives with praise,
He learns to appreciate
If a child lives with fairness,
He learns justice
If a child lives with security,
He learns to have faith
If a child lives with approval,
He learns to like himself
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship,
He learns to find love in the world
What a beautiful, empowering thought, as Parents, as teachers, as neighbors, as adults in this world, that we can with merely a glance, a smile, a word, a response…in the tiniest of gestures, have such a significant influence on shaping the thoughts & the future of a child. I can still remember instances when, as a child, something an adult did or said, unbeknownst to them, affected the way I would go on to view myself. Some were good, & others were bad. There are little moments that I still can’t shake, where I was ridiculed or snapped at by a stressed out, busy caregiver, & it affected my self confidence. I can still remember looks that adults gave me that made me feel insecure & stupid. Now, as a Mother, an Aunt, a neighbor, & a school nurse, I am very aware of the affect my actions, expressions, & words have on children, whether I intend to or not. Here is what I have taken from the lessons I have learned:
- Always smile at children. In the store, in traffic, coming & going, no matter how busy or stressed you are, smile & admire the fresh, new, beautiful, impressionable creations that God has put in your path. You wouldn’t scowl or roll your eyes at a patch of beautiful flowers, a lovely sunset, or a rainbow. Remember, children are a brand new creation, & any time you encounter them, you are imprinting on them an impression of their own self worth, & the nature of people in their world.
- Children are to be seen and heard. Allow them to elaborate. Children are SPONGES! They soak up so much information & ideas, & in order to process all that they are being told & taught, seeing, hearing, & feeling, they need to speak! Think about it. If you went to school & never ever were allowed to speak about what you were learning, & your teacher didn’t talk to you or ask you questions, & you were just expected to absorb everything & then be quiet…there is no way you would have learned! Children need to feel that what they are thinking & what they have to say matters. When they have a thought & we listen, it not only provides validation, it provides reassurance – yes, someone is listening to me. It feels good when you have something to say & you can look over & speak to someone & they listen, nod, and join you in conversation. This also teaches children how to navigate conversation, & with practice they learn the social skills; the give & take of conversation. They can only learn this through Practice.
- Children need more Questions than Answers. The conversations are so unbalanced between adults & children. We tell them, we instruct them, we remind them, we teach them. How often do we ask them? And what do we ask them? In middle school, a great source of anxiety (besides the usual adolescent chaos) was the “open-ended” question. This was a question that prompted the student to elaborate on an idea; to explain his/her personal reasoning behind an answer. Growing up in a household where the phrase “children are to be seen & not heard” was said on a near daily basis, I had not been allowed to practice the skills necessary to develop my thoughts & opinions & the ability to express them in an open-ended question or essay. My thoughts & answers were not valued in my home, & therefore, I hadn’t had the opportunity to clearly define what I thought about anything, much less write about it. We need to make it a point to deliberately allow the flow of conversation with children to go in the opposite direction. Ask them questions that allow them to speak their independent opinions & feelings. Ask them what they think of things, how they think something works, & why. This is how they begin to naturally hypothesize about the world around them; to develop ideas, logic & reasoning. And when they have elaborate explanations, listen. Don’t be too busy to spend time listening to a child. Foster confidence in their own ideas & thoughts. That is how they become excellent students, artists, leaders, speakers, & anything else they imagine they can be.