Photo by: Rennett Stowe
Self-worth. It’s not something we usually think a 3 year old would have. I mean, come one, they’re just little kids, right?
Wrong… oh so wrong. Psychological research shows that what the child learns, around 3 to 4 years of age, HUGELY impacts their self-worth and esteem… for the rest of their lives.
Did that sink in, yet? Good. Let’s move on to the point now that you’ve grasped how important self-worth is at all ages – especially the formative ones.
Oh and before you run off saying “I don’t have kids!”… stick around. There’s a deeper point.
Mud on Your Face – Big Disgrace?
Your child is outside, playing in the mud after a long spring rain, and comes trotting into the house. He did a great job taking off his boots, but left a fair chunk of the stuff on his face. What is the very next thing you say to him?
- “Your face looks like a mess! Clean that junk up!”
- “You have some mud on your face. Go wash the mud off, please.”
Okay – don’t get thrown off by the ‘please’ and the exclamation points. That’s not the point. (though you’ll find they fall into place when you start noticing what I’m a bout to tell you)
So which one did you immediately get drawn to? I know, you answered #2. Is that what you would normally say, all things considered? …after a long day’s work… cooking, cleaning, parenting, spousing, moving, teaching, growing, being tired, longing for vacation… et cetera.
Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged – Kids of ALL Ages
Feedback that throws any type of judgement or evaluation on it is detrimental to a child’s growth. (a child of any age… even you!) Think about it – will a child actually learn from being called a “mess” or from being able to clean his face without questioning his self-worth?
If you couldn’t tell already, sentence #1 is a judgmental statement and sentence #2 is a descriptive one. #1 goes past the facts of the situation and places a character judgement on the child.
“Oh, but that’s not what I meant!” Too bad. That’s what the kid understands when it comes to judgmental sentences. Okay, I’ll bring it up from the “kid” level to the “every person” level now.
Rather than trying to get a person to change to suit the way you talk to them, how about making a few changes yourself? What would it take for you to make more descriptive comments in the future?
“You’ll Fail at Life If You Don’t Change” or “Practice Helps Build Habits”
Let’s practice changing a few judging statements into descriptive ones:
- The attack: “You’re such a forgetful procrastinator – why can’t you care more about our gas bill!”
- Should probably be: “The gas bill was late and we’ve been hit with a fine. What can we do to prevent these fines in the future?”
- The attack: “Another ‘D’?! Do I have to baby you through your homework so you’ll stop messing around?!”
- Should probably be: “The ‘D’ grade in Science shows you might be having some difficulties. What can I do to help or better understand?”
Can you tell the difference between these two approaches? You might think it seems obvious. But, check it out from the other point of view. How do you think the receiver would feel in both of these examples? I know I’d much rather have the descriptive approach – EVERY time.
Descriptive Feedback Grows – Judging Criticism Suffocates
It’s hard enough trying to figure out this world as it is. You’re confronted with some new angle on life every day. Can you really be expected to do everything in your life, perfectly? Of course not. And the last thing you need is anything but useful feedback.
Go ahead and give yourself permission to replace your judging habit with the descriptive one. Notice when you dip into judge mode and immediately say, “STOP! Judge not – just describe!” The more you notice, the more you’ll stop judging, and the more you’ll start describing.
…and the more you’ll start building up that kid inside of everyone.
Want to really delve deep into just how much you don’t know about a person at any given time? Talk about a bunch of reasons to hold off on the judging! Check out this slightly more detailed article on States, Ecology, and Influencers on Behavior.