“You never … [pick up your clothes].”
“You make me … [furious].”
“I have to … [drive soccer carpool, again].”
These are examples of what communication experts call disempowering language: negative thoughts or words we may take for granted as part of our everyday vernacular. It’s a type of language that leave us feeling more like pawns in someone else’s game, rather than masters of our own destiny. Disempowering language can have a profound effect on the feelings and behaviors of our children and ourselves.
Focus on the positive
Negative thoughts narrow our minds and cut off other options and possibilities, preventing us from noticing or remembering our children’s cooperative moments.
It’s similar to playing the game Eye Spy. When you’re looking for purple things, you don’t notice all the green around you. The mind likes validation and consistency. It wants to be right. If we want to see positive results, we need to focus our words and our attention on the positive.
Choose empowering language
Empowering language can make any situation more tolerable and enjoyable. Here are some tips for using empowering language:
- Speak from a place of choice by avoiding “Should,” Have to,” and “Need to”
- Stay connected to reality by avoiding “Never” and “Always”
- Assert confidence and self-control by avoiding “Can’t”
- Foster responsibility and healthy boundaries by using “I Statements”
Make a Shift
Empowering language can supply us with the strength and motivation we need in our evolving role as parents. Even more importantly, this mode of communication gives our children the gifts of confidence and self-trust that will help them learn and grow in a world of possibility.
- I could/You could
- I choose to
- It’s important to me to
- I’m not willing to do/I am willing to do
Share your experience in the comments. What’s your default language and what empowering language might you be willing to try this week instead?
Suzanne Ritter is a parent coach, a certified parent educator with the Parent Encouragement Program (PEP) and mother of two teenage sons and a nine-year-old daughter. PEP offers classes and workshops to parents of children ages to 2 ½ to 18. This article is excerpted from one that originally appeared in the December 2016 issue of Washington Parent Magazine. Click here to read the full article. Photo credit: Konstantin Yolshin/shutterstock.com. PEPparent.org