The power of words and what to be mindful of when talking to young girls
We say lots of things to our children but do we stop and consider every word we speak to them? The odds are that perhaps we don’t. I think George Orwell is spot on when he tells us in 1984 that “if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” What we think has an effect on what we say, but it works vice-versa in that what we say can influence how we, or others, think.
If we are speaking negative words to young girls about how they look, act or behave, it may deeply impact how they think and feel about themselves. As body image concerns can be initiated from when girls are only a few years old, it’s important to start thinking about what we say to them sooner rather than later.
Here’s what we should be mindful of when talking to young girls.
Words can have a greater impact than we think
You’ve probably heard that actions speak louder than words but we believe that words are just as important. As adults, we know that words can hurt. A negative comment can ruin our day and make us feel awful about ourselves. So we need to be aware that children can be significantly impacted by negative words as well.
The feelings can linger
The things we say to young girls can stick with them for longer than we think; especially if they are negative.
The feelings they experience as a result of these negative things may not cease too quickly either. It might not go in one ear and out the other and certainly isn’t something younger girls should be dwelling on.
Research from Roy F Baumeister in his co-authored article ‘Bad Is Stronger Than Good’ shows that bad feedback will have a greater impact on a person than good comments. Bad feedback in this instance can make girls feel bad for longer periods of time, despite any positive reinforcement efforts.
Instead, we should consider how words, and the tone they are said in, can be interpreted by young girls as it may have a lasting effect.
Use encouraging language where possible
Even if things are said with good intentions in the hope to shape young ones in the best possible way, we need to be careful as sometimes they can be taken the wrong way.
By using encouraging language both directly and indirectly, we can use the power of words to hopefully inspire them to think positive, feel positive and act positive.
– Merissa Forsyth is the Founder of Pretty Foundation, a not-for-profit designed to promote positive body image for girls aged 2-6.