We are what we think. This simple but powerful dictum summarizes the importance of affirmations. Affirmations are fundamental to the work we do at Earthchild Project teaching vulnerable children in under-resourced communities. Childhood can be a stressful and frightening experience in any household, and many of the children we work with face additional challenges including violence, substance abuse and poverty. The absence of a nurturing environment can impact on a child's self-confidence, as well as their ability to learn and grow.
Research indicates a link between positive, encouraging statements and significant improvements in performance, behaviour and emotional well-being in schools, work place and home. Where expectations are low and praise limited, the tendency is for poor performance and behavioural difficulties. However, effective affirmations go beyond saying, 'Good job!'
Undirected and unspecific phrases parroted too frequently can lack meaning and sound forced. In fact, it can be counterproductive and start to erode confidence. Research indicates that the most effective affirmations praise effort rather than innate skills or accomplishments. So saying, 'I work hard!' is more effective than saying, 'I'm so smart!' The later affirmation can result in fear of the affirmation being disproved, making one avoid challenging situations. In contrast the first affirmation highlights effort. The result is a tendency to embrace difficult situations that encourage learning' even at the risk of failure.
Here are three steps to effective affirmative thinking:
1. Be specific. When praising your child, you might say: 'You're doing a great job at trying to listen carefully to my instructions. Well done!'
2. Focus on the process of learning and growing, rather than end results
3. Encourage self-affirmation. After projects or lessons, give children the chance to learn the vocabulary of self-affirmation by ending lessons with the opportunity for them to talk about what they thought they did particularly well during that lesson.
With the start of the New Year, instead of focusing our resolutions on what we do wrong or on the end process, we can focus on affirmative statements. So instead of saying, 'I'm going to lose weight' we can say, 'I love my body and will take care of it'.
DID YOU KNOW? An affirmation is a statement of support or encouragement that can be said either by oneself, or by others, to oneself.
Earthchild Project is a non-profit based in Cape Town. We have been teaching yoga, meditation, life skills and environmental education to children in Khayelitsha and the Cape Flats for 9 years. Just R200 supports a child with yoga lessons for a year. To donate, go to: Bit.ly/ShareLoveYoga
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