Except something changed this summer. I teach swim lessons. For the past fifteen summers, I've coaxed small children into swimming with nothing but enthusiastically yelled compliments and Starburst bribes. People think of swim lessons as fun and necessary, but I witness—daily—children overcoming absolute terror (and stubbornness) and using their bodies to do amazing (and fun!) things.
I find myself yelling all day long things like, "That float was beautiful." Or, "Those were awesome arms!" There's nothing wrong with this feedback. But, for some reason, this summer, I started saying, That looked so pretty!—referring to floats or swimming. I just like the word pretty right now. And, all year I've been using it to describe things that don't have anything to do with our traditional concept of prettiness.
Except, the article was haunting me, and I realized that maybe I could come up with a better word. So I started saying, "Good! that float was so strong!" Or, "Those were such strong arms! great work!" And, then, when kids did things even though they were terrified, I started complimenting their bravery.
Because they are so brave!
In real life.
It feels good to yell brave and strong across the pool to any kid—girl or boy.
I'm always thinking about words—about the gigantic differences a small word change can make. But, I've never seen a word switch (pretty to brave) create so much energy, and maybe happiness? Because, the kids smiles are different when I yell, "THAT WAS SO BRAVE!"
Did you read the article? How has it changed your life? and/or how you talk to kids?
Cup of Jo had a great response here.