Here we are speaking on mindfulness at Peace Week for the Kitchener-Waterloo
The thought behind the title of Dorothy Law Nolte’s famous poem “Children Learn What They Live” has never rang more true when it comes to teaching children affirmations.
But what, exactly, are affirmations?
For the uninitiated, affirmations are, in the most basic sense, positive words uttered repeatedly for the mind to absorb so they become part of the philosophy or belief system of the one uttering them.
Simple affirmations like saying “This day is another opportunity to be great” or “I am strong, good and beautiful” make a world of difference especially during these times.
For children, whose lives and mindsets are still developing, it is important for them to find love and encouragement in a nurturing environment. More importantly, however, they need to learn how to develop self-confidence and empower themselves.
After all, as parents, we can only do so much, and whatever happens outside the home is mostly beyond our control. Children get teased, bullied and shamed in school or at play.
To protect your children from the damaging effects of environmental and social stressors, you can teach them to recite affirmations so they remember who they are, wherever they may be.
Children become what they believe themselves to be
It doesn’t take much to understand this.
Descartes’ famous saying “Cogito, ergo sum” or “I think, therefore, I am” says as much. Then there’s the self-fulfilling prophecy in psychology; and the concept of the “looking-glass self” by Cooley, also in psychology.
Children’s belief systems are works in progress, and when they are exposed to negative environments, whether it be in an abusive home, false friendships or failure in certain school subjects, they start to see themselves as stupid, weird, or simply failures.
Adults get affected by personal and professional setbacks; kids are no different.
The problem here, of course, is that their self-identity is something they will carry over until adulthood.
Teaching your children to recite their affirmations for a few minutes in the morning, or just before they need to tackle a stressful task (such as sports try-outs), will plant seeds of positivity in their hearts and minds – essential to protect them from the world outside.
Affirmations teach children to be nice to themselves
Just like adults, children whose mistakes are pointed out tend to either blame others or overly blame themselves. However it may have been nicely put, anything perceived as criticism can spark negative feelings of self-blame, doubt, anger and frustration in most children.
But if you expose your kids to affirmations early on, encouraging them to focus on their strengths and develop areas for improvement, you also teach them the virtues of resilience, patience and perseverance. They learn to be kind to themselves and avoid focusing on the negative.
Start teaching affirmations at home
You can easily make affirmations a part of your children’s every day by asking them to memorize (especially for very young non-readers) simple affirmations, and have them repeat these at certain points of the day.
For middle schoolers and teenagers, you can encourage them to recite affirmations when they are stressed by an upcoming task such as a major quiz or class presentation.
Make your home a haven of positivity by posting affirmation cards in your living room, kitchen and den, or even the bathroom – places where your kids tend to linger.
Teaching affirmations is not about filling your children’s minds with rainbows and unicorns – it’s a way to teach them to value who they are and know exactly what they are capable of, even when the world says otherwise.