This is the month many of us make our annual pilgrimage to WHSmith for Superhero-inscribed pencil cases and onto Monkhouse for school uniforms, in a bid to ensure our angels look polished and pristine for the start of a new school year. I wanted to share a story that reminded me, in the midst of all the related emotions and potential for chaos – what a powerful part, effective communication plays in maintaining general wellbeing – for us all.
‘..Mummy, Grandma said SCARY LIONS are coming to my new school to eat me!’
I fixed my four-year-old son Pierce with a curious stare across our brioche and butter-strewn breakfast table, knowing instinctively that something about his statement was factually remiss. I respectfully refrained from bursting into giggles. I’ve learnt over the past year and a half while retraining as a counselor – and recently qualifying as a Neuro Linguistic Practitioner (NLP) coach – to sit quietly and wait. To see the world through their eyes, instead of filtering their story through my own. Using a process of silence, the unspoken expression of love and appropriate eye contact generally inspires further words to flow forth.
It turned out my mother had not referred to lions. And there was definitely no mention of them coming to school to eat Pierce. She had, I’m sure as far as she was concerned, quite innocently asked Pierce if he was scared about starting at junior school. Boom.
Loaded questions, like the one posed by my mother to Pierce are potential emotional hand grenades. They are personal filtered opinions hiding in the dingy darkness behind a seemingly innocent question. They contain judgment, fear and blame and are to be avoided if our goal is to nurture happy and self-assured individuals. In a nano second, Pierce cherry-picked the fear-filled word SCARED from his grandma’s question and attached it to something he considered scary. In his world, this means LIONS. He trusts my mother, so because she used the word SCARED in relation to his new school, he will have figured there’s a reason he ought to feel scared about his new education experience and proceeded to create an association between the two. His mind then links ‘scary lions’ with his new school and voila – my four year old has a new belief that helps to anchor his view of the world. Very quickly, we see the potential consequences of what his grandma considers an innocent enough question may be translated by Pierce into a limiting belief.
Fortunately, no one was harmed during this interaction as my NLP skills specifically deal with removing limiting beliefs. September 3rd, Pierce will be leaping into Ladybarn. His lions a languid memory.