“The words you speak become the house you live in.” Interesting quote, right?
One day I was having an informal conversation with Marvelous, a student in my class and she told me that “her brain was spoilt” which was a way of saying that she had a learning disability that makes it impossible for her to learn. I was so surprised that a ten-year-old would have such an opinion about herself. After much probing, she told me that a few months ago she was involved in an accident that almost had her right leg amputated, she was hospitalized for months and couldn’t attend school.
When she finally returned to school, she found it very difficult to catch up. It was at this point that her mom made her believe that the accident had affected her learning ability and it was therefore impossible for her to learn anymore. Whenever Marvelous faced a little setback, she would just give up telling herself learning wasn’t for her. Because of this she could not read a complete sentence and didn’t do well in every subject. Her actions gave credibility to her new belief.
Fast forward to nine months later, Marvelous can pick up words and make actual sentences. She is willing to push herself and try. Marvelous remembers concepts from months ago and can express ideas in her own words to show that she gets it.
Now the good news is that we didn’t get her to undergo brain surgery to help correct the said brain issue. All that was done was to sell her a distinctly different opinion and then back it up with facts. A mindset shift was all that happened!
To get this done as her teacher, I made Marvelous become the center of attention in class, I gave her more time to complete tasks and found out areas she needed extra help. I would always call her up to solve a problem or carry out a task I knew she would be excited to do and when she gets it right I had the entire class applaud her, constantly pointing to the fact that if she had brain damage it would be impossible to do what she had just done.
Soon enough she got used to getting things done and using the words of affirmation I gave her and before long she started to believe that she was indeed “intelligent”, “unique” and “talented”. This goes to show how impressionable children are. Your sincere opinions can shape how they perceive themselves and their abilities.
One thing we need to know is that children believe whatever words are uttered to them about themselves. If you use belittling words on them, they will believe you. On the other hand, if you tell them how amazing they are, they would exude a unique aura. This singular act makes them believe in you and embody whatever is being said because they trust their parents to know them more than anyone else. In addition to this, they believe their parents have their interest at heart and therefore, whatever they say is true.
I understand however, that there are children who have learning disabilities that impede their learning but I promise you, many of them are dealing with esteem issues and mindset dysfunction. This set of children are medically fine but they believe otherwise because you and I told them so. This is a challenge to us as parents, teachers and role models to become more intentional about boosting the self-esteem of the children in our lives through positive speaking, encouragement and commendation.