What you say can have a big impact on kids. Here’s one phrase to avoid to teach the importance of effort and raise a hard working child.
My two-year-old and I were in the car a few days ago, listening to a song with whistling. “Can you whistle?” he requested, wanting me to whistle along to the song, to which I obliged.
Unfortunately, my whistling was a bit on the soft side since he asked again, “Can you whistle?” Apparently the song was louder than me, so I explained to him, “I actually was whistling. I just can’t whistle that well.”
And there I heard myself say the self-defeating words: “I can’t…”
On raising a hard working child
In saying what I did, the message I was conveying was, “I’m not good at this,” or “I’m not able to whistle.” Maybe this is the truth. I can barely whistle on tune, much less belt out a piercing, whistle-to-the-song session.
But I didn’t want my son to think that I’m stuck with this predicament. I changed my language and followed up with, “I could whistle better. I just need to practice whistling more if I want to whistle louder.”
Now my whistling abilities depend on effort (or lack thereof).
We all have propensities. Certain people have physical traits that lend themselves to excel at sports, for instance. But greatness comes from effort and passion.
For instance, I can already discern some gifts in my son that may well have been part of his DNA. Still, I’d like to think that effort passion improves skills than had they done little about it.
I also want him to believe that he can do almost anything with hard work. You see, I used to think that I was terrible at math. I just accepted this as fact and performed accordingly. All the way up to college, practically costing me three near fails in a few classes. But by changing my attitude and studying this stuff, I learned that anyone can be a “math person.”
We can “exercise” our brain to earn A’s in math, learn a new language or master a difficult skill. A person isn’t an A-student or B-student. Just A-effort and B-effort. I want my son to believe he can almost always work hard and keep improving.
Because sure, we can accept our levels of mastery. I don’t whistle that great because I could care less about being the best whistler. But I’d rather my son know that my whistling ability has more to do with effort than something that I can’t change.
How do you encourage effort with your kids? Have you ever found yourself limiting your abilities based on preconceived notions?
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