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Confident Kids : Why Some Parents Should Carry a Health Warning

As a hypnotherapist, I am acutely aware of the power of words. A few well-chosen words can induce hypnosis and help my clients with a wide range of problems. I specialise in confidence, self esteem and stress management, so I am particularly interested in the ways in which we influence our own self esteem, and that of others, through use of language.

It makes me wince sometimes, listening to parents speaking to their children. "Are you stupid?" "You naughty boy!" and a personal un-favourite "If you carry on like this you're going to . . . "

Don't these parents realise what they're doing? Everything we say -- to ourselves and to others -- has predictive power. Not in the sense of a clairvoyant, but because we are creating self-fulfilling prophecies. Tell yourself that you can, and you will. Tell yourself that you can't, and you won't.

Of course, life isn't simply a matter of setting ourselves up with cosy predictions. We still have to do the work. But without self belief, that work becomes harder because it seems impossible. This applies to people of all ages. Just think how much more powerful words are for children, particularly when they come from an authority figure such as a parent or teacher.

How can parents best help their children? Positive parenting is a good first step -- focus on rewarding 'good' behaviours rather than punishing 'bad'ones. We can go much further than this, however. We can set our children up for success, relaxation and happiness.

An example from my own family may help. To encourage my nine year old's writing I asked him to imagine walking through town when he's grown up and entering a bookshop. There's something familiar about the display in front of him, and as he draws nearer he sees his own name and photo on the dust cover. It's a strong image and one which has struck a chord with him. We chat about this from time to time, and he's started to ask about literary agents and the whole process of getting a book published. In other words, he's made the transition towards believing that he could be an author.

Children are exceptionally trusting. Describe happy futures and they will work towards these with the same energy which they put into Christmas present lists. Above all, we need to mind our language as parents, and ask ourselves what predictions we are making for our children when we speak to them.

Jim Sullivan is a hypnotherapist specialising in confidence, self esteem and stress management. He may be contacted via http://www.confidenceclub.net

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