If you would prefer to listen to my blog, here's the link:
Everything that we as adults have now as self-talk comes from what we heard when we were growing up. We might say things like "I'm no good at maths" or "I'm rubbish at remembering people's names" or "I'm not as good at sports as my brother" and generally it's because we've had these things as we've been growing up. "She's the clever one in the family" "don't be so stupid" "you're so clumsy." So rather than try to undo all this negative self-talk once they grow up, how about we fill our children's heads with positive statements and what they can do, so that this becomes their self-belief instead?
I had an experience this week at work that is quite a regular occurrence and so I wanted to share it with you just to make you a little more mindful about the language we use around children. And I'm not talking about providing-a-good-language-model-type-of-language. I'm talking about what we say becoming their inner voice.
I had a carer come in with a child who thought that the appointment was going to be a waste of time because "she won't talk to you." Well, a) I like a challenge and b) it's kind of my job to help children to feel safe enough to talk to me, so within 5 minutes the child was laughing and talking to me and the carer became less, shall we say, hostile, and more happy to chat to me herself. "She must like you" I was told. How I encourage children to feel relaxed enough to talk to me will be covered in another blog post, but I really use just a simple series of 5 steps. (I should say here that I am talking about 'shy' or 'reluctant' talkers here not a child with Selective Mutism. If you would like an fantastic resource for Selective Mutism, I highly recommend Maggie Johnston's book Can I tell you about Selective Mutism or this powerpoint presentation by Maggie Johnston here.
When we tell someone that "she won't talk to you" we are telling the child not to talk to that person. So, if the child wants to talk to the adult, they might think twice because "I don't talk to people I don't know" or "I'm shy." It becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.
So what can we do to change this?
Using these 8 words will transform a child's self-belief. Now I'm using talking because I'm a Speech and Language Therapist
"Every day your talking's getting better and better"
You can obviously adapt the words to reflect any situation in which you would like the child to feel more comfortable or to respond differently. Such as "Every day your sharing is getting better and better." or "Every day you're using your hands more and more gently." (ooh, that's 10 words! I'm rubbish at counting - not because I was told that when I was younger, just because I am. Fact.)
Some more great phrases you can throw in to improve a child's self confidence and self-belief are as follows:
"Every day your talking is getting smoother and smoother."
"Every day it's getting easier and easier to talk." (these two are great for non-fluent children, especially if we find ourselves focusing more on when they stammer than when they don't.)
"Every day your talking is getting clearer and clearer." (for children with speech sound difficulties.)
"Every day you're thinking more and more about your clear speech." (for children working on transferring what they have learnt in clinic into everyday conversation)
"Every day your listening is getting better and better."
"Every day your sitting is getting better and better."
"Every day you are paying attention more and more." (these two for children with attention problems)
"Every day you are learning more and more words" (for children with delayed language) add"*in English." (for bilingual children)
Here's a useful pdf to put on your staff noticeboard (or the back of the toilet door!) as a reminder of which phrase to use. When you use this phrase watch how the child's facial expression changes from being anxious to breaking into a smile.
I've made a little video about this subject if you prefer to watch - I know we're supposed to film in really good light but I live in Scotland and we had our one sunny day last week so you've got me on a bit of a rainy day and I'm outside because I think it's a little bit quieter than my own home during the Easter Holidays! It was much more pleasant because I actually had a deer run past me (behind the camera) whilst I was filming and the bird song is amazing! So, you get a little bit of the Scottish Hills brought to wherever you are!