048: Thinking to value what a child says and does – Part 2

The current series of posts are about linking how you think to how you act. To start this series, you were asked to write down two results, one you wish for yourself and another you wish for a child in your life. You were also asked to write why you wanted this result. If you did not take the time to do this, please consider stopping and doing this first. Link here to read the previous post where the questions are explained.

When I asked caregivers around me to respond to this prompt, in particular the result related to their children, some were very general and others were more specific. Here are some of the responses heard:

“Even though my children are grown, I want my son to gain a better understanding of finances before he graduates from college – budgets, credit cards, etc. I want him to budget his money better and be more aware of his spending and account balances. I want him to understand how credit cards work, and how savings accounts can grow.” She wants this because “I wish I had learned more about these things and had developed the practice when I was his age. To know is one thing, to practice takes learning to another level. I want him to know and practice financial responsibility.”

Caroline, the mother of one daughter, 4, and a contributor to this blog, wants her daughter to grow up knowing how to make decisions for herself, how to assess a situation and how others are responding to it and have the confidence and ability to decide her own way and handle the consequences of her actions. “In short, I would like her to be independent. I would also like her to always be mindful and respectful of others, no matter what.” As for herself, Caroline said the result she wants for herself is more patience in all areas of her life.

Nicole, a mother of two daughters, (3 years old and 18 weeks old) said she wants her daughters to grow up respecting their bodies. She talked about how she wants them to learn to say no to drugs. She wants them to respect bodies also when it comes to sex. 

A father of two children, ages 11 and 13, said he wanted his children to become people who make the world a better place, to realize they are here for a purpose. “I want them to positively affect the lives of others.” When asked why, “because we are all here for a purpose, to serve and make this world a better place.”

Can you relate to any of these desired results? Maybe the result you listed is similar, possibly different.

Let’s continue the exercise. Now look at the result you stated and write down at least five things you would need to do to get that result. That is, make a list of actions that would help you, or your child, achieve this result. For example, when I did this exercise with students, we talked about the result “To get an A” would include action items such as: do homework, pay attention in class, study for tests, ask questions, just to name a few.

I asked the individuals above what action items would support the child achieving this result. Here are five things the mother who talked about finances said:

He would know how much money he needs for fixed and variable expenses each month; he would know what are his variable and fixed costs!

He would track his spending, monitoring where his money is going.

He would open up a savings account and start depositing in it regularly, for example 10 percent of his income.

He would know credit cards are not free money and the balances must be very low – or zero.

He would understand compound interest.

Here are five things Caroline wrote down as action items for her goals for her daughter:

She needs to see others act independently and successfully, those she learns from most often (i.e., the adults in her life).

She needs to learn about consequences, good and bad, both in theory and in reality.

She has to learn what it means to fail.

She needs to understand there is a time to lead and a time to follow

She must be taught good manners and put them to practice daily.

I’m curious to hear what five things, at least five things, you could do to achieve the desired result you listed for yourself. What possible action items would show your child was accomplishing the desired result you listed? (Again, if you haven’t written a result down for yourself and a child, please stop now and do this! Then you can think about at least five action items to achieve these results.)

Transforming, developing a child’s mindset starts with you clarifying the results you wish to develop in your child – as well as in yourself. In this post you are asked to clarify what your desired results mean by clarifying the actions associated with your result.

Clarity is the start of t.e.l.l.ing your child. Through these exercises, you will become aware of being present so you can teach, encourage, listen, and love your child. For now, write down your list of actions to support achieving your results.

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047: Thinking to value what a child says and does – Part 1

When you choose to T.E.L.L. a child, you are choosing to impact a child’s current thinking for the better. It is not important how well you T.E.L.L., but simply that you think about and just try to T.E.L.L. the child. You are trying to teach, encourage, listen, and love so you transform your child’s thoughts for the better. You do this because the child’s thoughts will inform the child’s attitude and values, and a person’s values and attitude dictate actions.

Have you ever seriously considered how your thoughts, your mind-set, determine your actions now and in the future?

I used to do this exercise with students. I would begin by asking them to identify what results they want to accomplish in this class and in another area of life. Typical responses for the class would be “to get an A” or “turn in all assignments” and the other area of life often focused on extracurricular or life circumstance, for instance “become a starter on the team,” “get a major role in the school play,” or “save enough money for college.” As a homework assignment, I would ask the students to write why they wanted this result in 2-3 sentences.

Let’s try this exercise. How about you? What result would you like to accomplish in general? And, in particular, think about a result you would like for a specific child in your life. Write down the result, and write why you want this result in 2-3 sentences.

Get a few sheets of paper to use for this exercise, or maybe you already have a journal you use to record your thoughts. During the next few posts, you’ll record personal thoughts and action points.

Man On Sofa Taking Notes

This week:

1) Write in the day’s date, and list a result you personally are after. Then write why you want this result. What benefits will you gain by accomplishing this? How will it enhance your life? What would happen if you did not accomplish this?

2) List the child – or children – you wish to focus on in this exercise. State the result you would like for the child(ren). Then write why you want this. Why would this result benefit the child now and/or in the future? How will this result enhance the child’s life? What would happen if the child did not accomplish this result?

Commit to reading and completing the posts associated with this exercise. You may also think about inviting three or four friends to do this exercise with you. Invite them to read this Show & T.E.L.L. blog post, as well as other posts. Have a conversation about the results you want – and the results you want for the children in your lives.

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044: Stimulate all of a child’s senses to help build quality brain connections

Currently, we are discussing how life experiences, starting with an infant’s first breath, have a great effect on brain development. A child’s brain is actively and constantly building mental connections, creating a foundation for all future learning, behavior, and health. The interactions caregivers have with a child throughout childhood can impact the quality and strength of the child’s mental connections.

The early years are the most active and crucial period for building brain connections; with the onset of puberty the connections are pruned for more efficient thinking. However, new connections can form throughout life and unused connections continue to be pruned. This brain never stops developing.

It is never too late to build new and beneficial connections; however, earlier is better to establish a strong foundation. It is easier to form strong connections during the early years than it is to intervene or ‘fix’ the thinking patterns later. If you want to read more about this, click here for the previous post.

Did you spend time thinking about how the interactions between you and a child are crucial to the child’s developing brain? Even for an infant who mainly sleeps, eats, and observes, the brain is changing and building connections in these early years of life. While the child’s brain is actively creating connections, it is important for you to realize how this is a time for great opportunity and vulnerability. The impact experiences have on brain development is greatest during childhood, for better or worse.

Continue to reflect on the brain connections you are helping your child create. For example, do you play music at home or in the car? Think about the sounds your child hears throughout the day. Consider playing soothing background music. Many recommend Mozart or other classical sounds.

Think about the facial expressions you show your child. Does your child see and hear gentleness and care? Give time, at least a few minutes a day, to talk and show your child things on his or her level. Stimulate all the child’s senses to help the brain build quality connections.

The more senses involved in your interactions, the more the child learns, and therefore builds more quality brain connections.  Give time to engage all your child’s senses by building something with your child. Build a tower with cans in the cupboard, or use legos or other building tools to create something together. How about building a fort with blankets? Be creative, involve the senses and create quality connections about being creative and innovative.

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039: What’s in it for the child?

The last two Show & T.E.L.L. blog posts focus on evaluating interactions as positive or negative and how experiencing both positive and negative are important for a child’s personal growth. The posts explain how a positive or negative interaction depends on how your words and action impress upon the child’s mind and personal development. If you ignore or focus predominately on the negative behavior, the evaluation is negative. If you redirect a child’s thinking or behavior, or you focus on the positive behavior, the evaluation is positive. Every interaction is positive or negative; your words and actions will favor the positive or negative direction. If you want to read more about positive and negative interactions, you can link to the posts below by clicking on the title.

Your interactions are positive or negative depending on how you t.e.l.l.

Continue learning and knowing more about positive and negative interactions

Today’s post will focus on considering the types of consequences you offer when interacting with a child.

We have a tendency to think about consequences as punitive. I often hear adults speak of children needing consequences for doing something wrong. Of course, consequences can be in the form of a punishment. But consequences can also be in the form of a reward. Either way, consequences help reinforce behavior, and a consequence makes the interaction more real for a child.

Children need to know and understand how the behaviors they are demonstrating are beneficial (or not). They need to know and understand how they can do better. Consequences can also be the rewards based on which behaviors you want to embrace and advance in the child’s personal development. It does not have to be complicated.

Today, start thinking about the consequences you use to make your interactions more real for the child. Begin asking yourself, “‘What is in this for the child?”

Begin recognizing that you can huff and puff all you want about the desirable behaviors you want your child to demonstrate, but when it comes to whether (and which) behaviors are desirable for your child’s personal growth, a consequence can make it concrete and real. When you include a consequence that a child clearly understands, it speaks louder than a hundred speeches.

I was in a grocery store the other day when I noticed a father with two children, a son and daughter. The daughter was older, probably around 4 years old. The father was rushing to get the groceries and the children were trying to keep up behind him. While he was looking for something on the shelf, the young girl must have done something to her brother. I see the father grab the young girl and start smacking her on the behind, saying “I told you to leave your brother alone, quit picking on him.”

The young girl stopped for a moment and gave her dad a blank stare. Within a minute, she poked her brother again. Dad didn’t even notice.

Do you think the young girl understood her father’s words and consequence? Do you think she understood why her father smacked her for poking her brother? How real was this interaction for the young girl? Can you think of a better way to handle this situation? What could the father say and do to make this interaction more positive and beneficial?

Consequences do not have to be complicated. I will continue addressing this in the next blog post. Today, start thinking more about the consequences you use to impact your child’s thinking and behavior. What is in it for the child? How do your words and consequences relate, and how does it help the child think and choose better?

Realize this fundamental precept for T.E.L.L.ing a child:

#5: Interact with consequences in mind. Proper consequences can make the interaction more real for the child. Choose consequences the child understands so the child is better able to choose beneficial behaviors over limiting ones.

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038: Continue learning and knowing more about positive and negative interactions

In the last blog post, I introduced the idea of a positive and negative interaction because:

#4: Every interaction can be evaluated as positive or negative, and both types of interactions are needed for personal growth; however, it is critical that children accumulate a favorable balance of positive interactions over negative.

Did you begin to notice and evaluate your interactions as being positive or negative? Did you think about whether your words and actions were leaving a positive or negative impression on a child’s mind? Read the previous post here.

Before going on with the next point in evaluating whether our interactions are effective, I want to emphasize the idea that both positive and negative interactions are needed for personal growth. Many may think the goal is to experience only positive interactions. Besides the fact that this is nearly impossible, even if it was, having only positive interactions would cause a developing child to have a limited and naive perception of living life. It is important to realize an evaluation of positive and negative interactions is not an evaluation of good or bad; it is an evaluation of the child’s mental impression in the moment.

My daughter grew up playing soccer. Around the age of 12, she had a coach who would constantly pull her and her teammates aside and focus on (yell) what they did wrong. My daughter would often come to me very upset about these conversations. I recall many of the parents feeling the coach should be more sensitive when communicating with our 12 year-old, going through puberty, daughters. However, as I continued learning and knowing more about positive and negative interactions, I realized these negative interactions are what allowed her to play soccer at the next level. Without his coaching, his feedback, she would never have been able to play as well and as long as she did.

These were not ‘bad’ interactions; they were negative interactions because the coach would focus on what was wrong. The coach made sure the girls understood how they were lacking in their game. Seldom, if ever, did he say what they did well unless it was an exceptional play.  I can imagine him saying, “the girls should know what they are doing right, my job is to make them better.”  Many of the interactions in the moment left a negative impression in the girls’ minds; however, it was because of these negative impressions, my daughter developed perseverance and became a better soccer player in the long run. She had to take the critical criticism and learn better ways. These negative interactions ended up being favorably balanced with positive interactions. Her teammates would compliment one another and she herself would notice the improvement in her game. And, every once in a while, the coach would throw out a compliment. The girls who did not experience, or feel, the favorable interactions usually quit the game at some point. Only a handful of them went on to play in college.

The problem is when children experience continual negative interactions at school, home, and socially. Especially at a young age, these leave lasting negative impressions. In the above example, my daughter was 12. If she was much younger, these critical conversations would have been less effective, even detrimental. When children experience continual negative interactions, they start to develop negative beliefs and attitudes about themselves, others, and their circumstances. Then they begin to develop insecurities, self-centeredness, or learned-helplessness. Can you think of anyone you know who may be an example of this scenario? Can you think of maybe a situation in your own life where enough negative interactions caused you to give less of yourself or give up?

This week, continue to:

Reflect and evaluate your interactions. Ask if you are leaving a positive or negative impression. If it is negative, think about what can you say and do to redirect the child’s thinking in the future. Is there something positive you can add to the interaction to help move it in a favorable position? For the younger child, try making this shift sooner rather than later. Keep in mind that the child is rapidly accumulating life experiences that he will use to think and act in the moment and in the future.

As you practice asking these questions and reflecting on your interactions, you will continue to learn and know more about positive and negative interactions. You will also continue to learn and know more about T.E.L.L.ing a child. You will realize the impact you can have as you teach, encourage, listen, and love.



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037: Your interactions are positive or negative depending on how you t.e.l.l.

In the current series of blog posts, we are talking about foundational precepts to think and act upon when communicating with a child. The first three posts introduce why interactions with a child are important. That is, in every interaction you are T.E.L.L.ing your child something. You are informing your child’s thoughts, words, and actions not only relative to the current situation, but possibly in a future event. You are also providing the child with information about how to act when communicating with others. The bottom line: every interaction you have can be an informative experience for the child.

mom and toddler

Understanding and accepting your responsibility for the words and actions used in any interaction is the first step before you can begin improving your interactions. We have to accept the responsibility for our words and actions, especially when the other is a child. A child cannot be the one responsible for your choice of words and actions. If you would like to read any of the first three blogs, you can link to them below by clicking on the underlined text.

#1: In every interaction you are mentoring and modeling for your child.

#2: In every interaction, the words and actions chosen reflect your current heart, mind, and will.

#3: The words and actions you display today in an interaction are a collection of your past accumulated life experiences.

The next group of blog posts in the “How can I T.E.L.L.?” series focus on evaluating whether your interaction is effective. Have you ever thought about what makes an interaction effective? Have you ever thought about whether you experienced a positive or negative interaction?

Think about the last interaction you had with a child, or anyone for that matter. Would you be able to evaluate whether it was positive or negative? Don’t be surprised if you answer that question with a “No, not really.” The majority of people only think about their interactions when it was either extremely good, extremely bad, or something happens that wasn’t expected. Otherwise, it’s human nature to just continue thinking and going on with our business… not giving our interactions a second thought.

Today, try and give your interactions with children a second thought. Begin asking, at least periodically, “Did I interact positively or negatively with this child?”

#4: Every interaction can be evaluated as positive or negative, and both types of interactions are needed for personal growth; however, it is critical that children accumulate a favorable balance of positive interactions over negative.

So, what makes an interaction positive or negative?

In general, a negative interaction is when

1) you choose to ignore something important or

2) your words and actions focus only on negative thoughts and feelings.

For example, you notice your child taking a toy away from another child. You know this is not how you want your child to behave, but you choose to not bring it up. You may have your reason, and it may be a good reason to ignore the interaction (or confrontation) in the moment. It is negative because not addressing it now means the child may continue to think there is nothing here, and may continue to think and act this way in the future.

It is also negative to only focus on what is wrong in the moment. For example, in the situation above with the child taking a toy away from another child,it would be considered a negative interaction if you go over upset and only talk about how your child did something wrong, saying they were “bad.” Negative interactions leave a negative impression in the mind of the child.

You want to interact in a way that leaves a positive impression in the mind of the child. A positive interaction is where you intend to

1) redirect the child’s thoughts and actions to become better or

2) emphasize the positive thoughts and feelings. 

In the situation with the child taking a toy away from another child, it would be considered a positive interaction if you patiently and kindly directed the child to give the toy back with an apology, saying something along the lines “You made Sara sad by taking her toy, let’s give it back to her and say sorry.” The intent is to redirect the child’s mind to more appropriate and beneficial learning. Impress the child with ideas that help her in the future in similar situations.

Emphasizing the positive is to reinforce the thinking and actions you want the child to continue. For example, after the child returns the toy and apologizes, you may follow up with “I’m proud of you for returning the toy and saying sorry.” Focusing on the positive allows a child to hear and think about what she is doing right.

This week:

Begin to noticeand evaluate – your interactions with a child. Ask yourself periodically, “Did I have a positive or negative interaction?” Recognize we all have negative interactions. We all have times where we ignore or emphasize what is wrong. It’s human nature.

Here’s the good news: once you are aware and can evaluate an interaction as negative, you can always try again and redirect and/or emphasize the positive ideas you want a child to think about or act upon. Or you can accept you just had a negative interaction, and look for a future opportunity to have a positive interaction. In the long run, what matters is the child experience more positive interactions than negative ones. Make it your goal today to allow a child to accumulate a positive interaction, one that leaves a positive impression on how to think and act.

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