Photo Credit: iStock
By Kelly Rudolph
Knowing the “right” thing to say and do as parents is daunting. I’m guessing you don’t feel like a rock star parent 24/7.
But what if I told you there is ONE word you can add to your vocabulary that will help set your kids up for success for the rest of their lives? You’d let it flow effortlessly from your parenting lips, right?
Well, there is such a word, and that word is — “practice.”
And it cultivates confidence and a “can do” attitude in kids when you use the word “practice” in place of the (more commonly used) word “try.” And here’s why:
Try implies failure, or at the very least, doubt. From a very young age, we are always told to “try this,” “try that” and “try, try again” … “just try.” But “try” implies the act of wondering what will happen instead of having a clear intention of success.
How many times have you heard someone say they tried something over and over, and it didn’t work? Or that they will try to call you or come over and never show?
Our subconscious programming tells us that try is a way out (even a cop-out ) for many. It’s a word we use when we don’t expect success or don’t want to do something. “Oh well, at least you tried.”
The word “practice,” however, implies improvement and success. Practice always makes you better.
Everyone who is good at anything has practiced — doctors, musicians, athletes, students, speakers, singers and the list goes on and on. Did they try it the first time to see if they wanted to pursue it? Yes, but when it came to improving, they practiced.
Even toddlers learning to walk are practicing. They have every intention of walking successfully, and they keep at it until they do … and that in itself is a tremendous lesson for us adults.
If you want to remove the detrimental t-word from your parenting vocabulary altogether (which I HIGHLY recommend), you can replace it with action and success oriented phrases like “do it,” and see if you like it. Or let’s “look into it,” and see if it’s something you want to do. Or you could say, “Check it out,” and see what you think.
These alternative phrases don’t have the same negative association as the word “try.”
One of my clients was practicing empowering language with her kids after she felt the tremendous difference positive language changes made in her own life.
Her 3-year old son wanted her to tie his shoes for him. She said, “You can tie your shoes.” To which he replied, “I tried. I can’t do it. You tie them.”
She said, “Just practice. You can do it, practice makes you better.” After successfully tying his shoes on the first attempt as he said the word “practice” to himself, he went over to his 18-month-old sister who was a bit frustrated trying to get one of her toys to work and told her, “You can do it. Just practice,” and he cheered her on until she did it before telling his mom, “I’m a good big brother.”
In that powerful moment, my client and her children were given a gift with a simple concept — that will empower them for the rest of their lives. Her kids will know they can always improve instead of wondering if they will succeed.
So, which do you want for yourself and your child, “try,” which implies doubt and failure — or “practice,” which implies improvement and success?
Here’s the tricky part. You’ve probably been using the t-word your whole life, so it may take a while to get the hang of saying practice instead. Be gentle with yourself and keep practicing. Your kids are watching you and modeling what you do much more than they are listening to what you say.