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Our Wealth Is in Our Words

11 November 2021

“Children have never been good at listening to their elders, but they never fail to imitate them.” – James Baldwin

If there’s one thing we all have in common, it’s parents. For some of us, the role of parents may have been our biological mother and father; for others, this role may have included a wider variety of adults. No matter what life looked like for us, we had elders who shaped our understanding of the world around us, and the world within us.

How you were spoken to and treated as a child formed a crucial foundation for the person you have become today. And this, in turn, affects how you might treat your kids, your partner, or those with whom you work.

The words we use shape us and those around us. This is how wealth begins and grows.

In a recent study, researchers asked school-age kids what they thought their parents valued more: achievement or caring for others? These are our young leaders of tomorrow who are being shaped by the words of their parents, aunts and uncles, teachers and peers. 80% of the kids in the survey said they thought their parents were more concerned about their achievements.

Most of us feel like we are supporting kids to be kind and caring, but if we look at our daily experiences, we might very well hear words similar to what our kids think. In reality, it looks like the message of kindness doesn’t always come through. When we look at report cards, sales reports or quarterly reviews, is there a box for “being kind to others”? When we see friends post pictures on Facebook, it’s rarely about how kind they are; it’s usually about their latest achievement.

Developments in adult learning show us that the more we encourage self-awareness and the healing of childhood wounds, the more we can create positive environments for people to grow and flourish. And, when people around us grow and flourish, we grow and flourish too. As the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats.

We can do this by paying attention to the words we use. And we can start with our kids. It really matters. It communicates to them what we really value, and it helps us reinforce within ourselves what we truly value.

The Big Life Journal, a resource for developing a growth mindset in kids, suggests looking for ways to praise your child’s inner qualities (aside from achievements) – these include kindness, thoughtfulness, being a good friend, being a good helper, and so forth.

This will show them that you care about the person they are becoming and not only their accomplishments.

Look beyond their achievements
Try saying something like, “I noticed you encouraging your friends at the tournament; what a supportive friend you are."

Focus on how they got there
“You didn’t give up during the entire game and had great energy. It was so fun watching you.”

Notice their practise and hard work
“Have you been practising? I’ve noticed your aim is much sharper.”

Notice without giving your evaluation
“Your room looks clean.”

These messages tell your kids, and reinforce for you, that you are interested in more than just their achievements. They remind us of the importance of doing our best, working hard for something that matters more than just an end result. It also reminds us that being wealthy is not just about what we have, but how we keep it and share it with others.

By reframing our words, we can instil higher confidence in those around us. Living in a world brimming with kindness will lead to a wealthier, healthier place for us all.

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