The following is an excerpt from chapter 4 in Marcie’s book
Parenting with Awareness
The Power of Words
For a young child, words are the building blocks of a sense of self. They create an understanding of a place in the world and how things work. Words can motivate or humiliate. They can inspire or limit us from ever trying. They can build one’s self esteem, or make one feel small and insignificant. Take a minute to think about what types of words you choose to use with and around your child.
Before your child was even born, she was listening to your words through the sound of your voice. Research has shown that fetuses know their own mother’s voice because an increase in heart rate and non-nutritive sucking has been documented.
It is through your words and the way in which you speak them, that you will begin the lifelong process of interaction and relationship with your child. You will use them to praise, discipline, educate, and love. Most child developmentalists agree, as written in Einstein Never Used Flashcards, that the amount and type of language an infant hears has an impact on her development. “It is a fact that language stimulation is one of the best predictors of later vocabulary, reading and mathematical skills.”
Some ways to enrich your young child’s development through language is through songs, nursery rhymes, and reading aloud. As they begin to converse it is important to engage children in open-ended conversations. All of these activities will help build attachment between you and your child.
It’s also paramount to remember that your child’s receptive language develops long before her expressive abilities. Little ears are hearing all that goes on around them so be kind with the words you choose to use when speaking about yourself and to others.
The following word game will bring awareness to your child that the words we choose are important because they affect others and the universe.
Words in a Bucket
What you will need:
Paper or cardboard
Small container or a plastic bag
Piece of felt – they usually come in an 8 1/2 x11 size available at a craft or fabric store
Similar sized piece of sandpaper
Clear contact paper for protection
Sticky back Velcro (optional)
This is an activity that will begin to teach your child about the importance of words she chooses. One thing about words is that they can be categorized. This is a great game because it connects a sensory experience, something tangible to the spoken word.
Begin by explaining to your child that there are both positive and negative words. Positive words create good energy and make everyone feel good. Negative words create negative energy, hurt other people and make them feel bad. You can bring this awareness to your child by telling her that you are trying to use positive words instead of negative words. Have her come up with an example or two to see if she understands the concept. If she is too young to fully grasp the idea of negative and positive, you can label words as good and bad. You can also label them by how they make you feel such as happy or sad, scared or excited.
Write several “good” words and “bad” words on small strips of paper or cardboard approximately one by two inches long. You and your child can choose words together if she is old enough. This is also a good way to expand her vocabulary. Explain to your child that “good words” are words that create love and happy feelings. Bad words are words of anger that generate bad and sad feelings. You can also explain that negative words that discourage or instill fear in us are words that make you feel dark while other words that are sincere and full of love and inspiration make you feel light. Give her a couple of examples and let her offer her own ideas. Measure across the top of the paper every two inches. Do the same at the bottom and draw a line between the top and bottom markings. This will give you four columns. Down each vertical side measure one- inch increments and connect those markings. This will create a grid of rectangles approximately one inch by two inches. Write a word into each block and cut each one out separately. Place the words into a small container or bowl. Make sure you use the same color markers when writing the words so your child won’t pick up on the visual clues of the color. Children are quite perceptive and if you write out all the good words in red, and all the bad words in black, they might cue in to the colors to play the game rather than focusing on the context of the word.
If you are using Velcro, you will need only the rough side on the positive words since this will adhere to the felt easily. For the negative words, you will need to place Velcro on both the sandpaper and the back of the negative word. Make sure you use both the smooth and rough Velcro so they will match up.
For children who cannot read, it will be necessary for you to read the words to them. If your child doesn’t know the meaning of a word, you can act out the feeling it creates or show the facial expression it may evoke. This will help your child associate the emotion with the word.
Have your child place the kind words onto the felt and the hurtful words onto the sandpaper. Follow up the game with a discussion of how it feels when someone uses a bad word against you or around you? How do nice words make you feel? How does it make you feel when you use bad words against yourself or someone else?
You can then make a pact with your child that you will both try to use positive words and that you will both remind each other if the other is using a negative word. Children love to teach and I am sure you will give her more than one opportunity to “mind your words.”