4 Quick Language Swaps to Transform Kid's Self-Esteem


Outline of brain over profile of face
Transforming the brain through language

“I am bad at Math. I will never get this.”


“I’m an athlete, not an academic.”

“I’m not an artist, I can’t draw.”

We hear these types of comments from our students on a regular basis. Embedded within the comments, are labels that make part of a descriptive language that forms our kids’ sense of self. Our human brains hold on to the sense of self that we construct for ourselves and will fill in the gaps with behaviors and habits that maintain and support that self.

“...wording opens their brain up to new possibilities, and their brains will fill in the gaps by developing new neural connections...

For this reason, the language we use to describe ourselves is of utmost importance to our success or failure in life. The same is true of our kids and we, as parents, have a pivotal role in encouraging language that will build up their self, so that their brain can do its job and make that self become a reality.


1. THE POWER OF YET

Replace “I am bad at math” with “I have not mastered math yet.”

The word “yet” is powerful. It lets their brain know that, while it hasn’t reached the expectation, it should continue to make attempts to get there.

2. FOCUS ON THE DOING vs. THE BEING

When it comes to skills they are learning, especially academically, we want to encourage our kids to change their narrative and language from focusing on their being (sense of self), to focus on their doing (behaviors).

If kids believe that who they are is “innately bad at math”, then there’s no reason for them to try to improve their math skills. In the same way, if they believe all they are is “an athlete” then they have no reason to strive to be anything else.


3. DO & BE MANY THINGS

Replace “I’m an athlete, not an academic” with “I am an athlete AND I am an academic”. This wording tells their brain that they can strive to be more than one thing and not be confined by stereotypes or social expectations.

4. JUST TRY IT

Replace “I’m not an artist, I can’t draw” with “I haven’t tried to draw before, but I can give it a try and see how it goes”. This wording opens their brain up to new possibilities, and their brains will fill in the gaps by developing new neural connections that will allow for the development of new skills.

Start to implement small language changes around your kids and you will reap the benefits for years to come. It’s never too late to begin!