Attitude is the mind’s paintbrush; it can color any situation. The teacher who says, “This is a very important test. Be careful,” paints a negative picture that shakes confidence. Saying, “This is a very important test and I know you can handle it and do well,” paints a positive picture.
Which would you rather hear when you walk into a restaurant: “I can’t seat you for thirty minutes” or “In thirty minutes I will have a wonderful table for you”? The result is the same, but the perception is different. The child who wets his bed conjures up one image when the parent says, “Don’t wet your bed tonight” and a completely different picture when the youngster hears, “Let’s see if you can keep the bed dry tonight.” The message we convey can have a dramatic effect on young people’s behavior.
The first step is awareness. To assist in becoming aware of negative statements, listen to yourself. When catching yourself saying something that paints a negative picture, take the extra step of thinking how it could be rephrased to paint a positive picture. “I’m afraid that I will forget my keys,” becomes, “I’m going to remember that I placed my keys in the top drawer.” Adults do not purposely set out to deprecate young people; awareness of positive language can ensure they do not. For example, rather than saying, “Did you forget again?” say, “What can you do to help yourself remember?” Rather than, “When will you grow up?” say, “As we grow older, we learn how to solve these problems from such experiences.”
Positive attitudes affect teaching too. Many years ago, the first day of school began on a bright note for the new teacher, who was glancing over the class roll. After each student’s name was a number 118, 116, 121, and so on. “Look at these IQs,” the teacher thought. “They have given me a terrific class!” As a result, the elated teacher challenged his students, raised their expectations, and communicated his confidence in them. The teacher tried innovative techniques and involved students so they became active learners. The class did much better than expected. Only later did the teacher find out that the numbers placed by students’ names on new class roll sheets were locker numbers.