I was thinking back on a very enlightening conversation with a friend, Aimee, on Thanksgiving. She has been on my mind heavy lately, as she recently lost her mother so I felt inspired to write this. Aimee is kind and treats all children with respect, which is something I always notice as a parent. She taught me a lesson that has stuck with me – that we should all tell our children they are hardworking.
I brought Sienna down to Thanksgiving dinner after her nap dressed in her holiday best. Aimee commented on how pretty Sienna looked in her dress, shoes and hair bows. I shared with her that I was consciously trying to pay Sienna less compliments about her appearance (“you look beautiful” “you look cute”). Likewise, I focus on saying that Sienna is smart, intelligent and amazing.
I told Aimee that this all stemmed from Sienna walking into our bedroom recently after she got dressed and saying, “Daddy, I’m cute. I’m cute.” We realized that she has started associating nice clothes and her hair being done with cute and beautiful. She is only two years old so we’re keeping chill. But do want to be conscious of the messages we are conveying.
Aimee interrupted saying, “Instead of saying ‘you’re smart,’ try saying, ‘you are hardworking.’ That is what I do with my students. If they ever stumble across something that they can’t do, they will feel like they aren’t smart. But if you tell them they are hard-working, they will keep working harder. They won’t feel as if they aren’t smart if they fail.” Knowing that if they work hard they can achieve something also helps to build self-confidence in their abilities if they hunker down and try.
This is a twist that I had not heard before, but it made complete sense. Thank you, Aimee. The language we use with our kids sticks with them and really matters. They listen to us and internalize our words. Spreading the word mamas and daddy’s, grandmas and grandpas, uncles and auties. We can all learn from our village and I am certainly learning every day. We should all tell our children they are hardworking!