If you’re looking to win the mindset battle, it could be helpful to identify and eliminate any “bad” words and phrases that could adversely affect your parenting and overall life experience! If you’re homeschooling, it might also be a big step towards being able to claim victory in the educational war.

More importantly, it is much easier to help our children develop a growth mindset when we are able to honestly evaluate and adjust our own “stinking” thinking and the language we use to express those thoughts.

“Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs.”     -Pearl Strachan Hurd

As I reflect on both my life and our homeschooling journey, I generally marvel at how much we accomplished. Then, there were the other times. When I ponder the periods that didn’t go as planned, or yield the results I expected, they all had one thing in common—a corrupt mindset.

I absolutely believe that there is a direct correlation between what we think of a thing, situation or person, and the net effect those thoughts have on our lives.

“If you have a different mindset, you will have a different outcome.” 

–Jack Ma

There are many ways that you can approach a change in mindset. One really potent strategy is to eliminate disempowering words from your vocabulary. It’s a small change that over time could have a tremendous impact on us, and the lives of those we touch.

So, here are the top nine words and phrases on my personal “Bad Word” List.

1. “I Can’t”

Most of the time when we use this word, or any of its evil cousins like “I don’t” and “I could never”, it isn’t true. It implies that we are not capable of something. In most cases, the only barriers to doing something that we aren’t currently able to do, are a lack of desire, knowledge, time, effort or fear.

If you really want to do something, do it. If you don’t choose to do something, say that you’re not interested, are unavailable, or would prefer to do something else. Never limit yourself by planting any seeds of doubt in your conscious or unconscious mind.

Better choices: “I Can”, “I Can’t Yet”, “I Will Not”, “I Don’t Choose to”.

2. “I Just”  

As I became more mindful, I was amazed at how much this, seemingly innocuous, word left my lips. And, it is a big one for many people that could lead to a “stuck” mindset. Do you ever modify phrases with the word “just”? Saying things like, “I was just thinking about you” is fine. If you’re not referring to the timing of something; however, I’d recommend limiting its usage.

Statements like, “We were just able to get through math today”, can not only cause you to miss the victories of the day, it’s likely to leave you feeling defeated and demoralized. This is not what we or our children need, especially our daughters. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Carefully guard your energy, you’re sure to need it for something more important…like savoring everything that makes this life adventure a singular experience.

Better choice: Just eliminate just and replace it with words and phrases that celebrate what you’ve accomplished.

3. “I’m/We’re behind”

I’m particularly talking to my homeschooling comrades here, but if the shoe fits…

I confess. I’m a repeat offender. I’ve used this phrase countless times. It pops out when we’ve veered away from my “plan” because “life happens”. The truth is that we are always exactly where we should be.

You can ignore dishes and laundry, but there are times when other matters or people are more important. There are days when either you or your child will not feel like schooling in a customary manner. And, sometimes, you might need to devote so much time laying the foundation for one area that the others receive less attention.

Customizing your educational adventure is one of the benefits of homeschooling. Defining these days or periods as placing you “behind” will only leave us and our children with feelings of guilt and inadequacy.

Better choices: Any phrase that articulates and celebrates what was done, learned or accomplished.

4. “I should” or “I should have”

Please don’t allow anyone to “should” on you, and be mindful of “should-ing” on others. When we tell ourselves, or allow others to chastise us regarding what we should have done, the message could easily be internalized as knowingly having made a wrong choice.

Most of the time, even decisions we regret were made with the best intentions and most accurate information available to us at the time.

Finding the balance here while training up and preparing my babe for life is…well, the struggle was and still is real.

Think of missteps like this. It’s over. Remember the lessons. Forget the details. Learn, Grow and Go. When we learn this for ourselves, it’s a lot easier to offer this incredible gift to our children as well. It frees us all up to take more risks, and grow more fearlessly.

Better choices: “I could”, “I choose”, “I want”, or any other word or phrase that reminds you that after every choice, no matter the consequences, is another opportunity to make a new choice with more knowledge.

5. “I’m busy” and “Things are crazy”

Recently, I became infuriated by a LinkedIn post that crossed my feed. It was based on a CNBC article, credited to Deepak Chopra, regarding the negative personal and social consequences of telling others that you’re “busy”. As a homeschooler who was BUSY, I reserve the right to define my life experience. And, I’m still busy.

Actually, my word of choice for an overwhelming schedule was “crazy”, which morphed into “situation normal”. Yet, I also realize that words have an effect on how I feel. My “busy” is usually accompanied by elevated stress levels and a reduction in patience. Simply saying that “things are crazy” can negatively activate my central nervous system.  Who needs that?

Fortunately, there are some pretty cool ways to turn your overwhelm into a life of balance. That, however, is another blog. Stay tuned…

Better choices: I’d recommend “busy” over “crazy” until you find “balance”.

6. “I’m not…” (followed by anything you actually choose to be)

We’ve all been guilty of using this phrase at one time or another, and we cringe when we hear our children say it about themselves.

I’m not creative. I’m not good at math. I’m not really qualified to teach my child. I’m not smart enough, pretty enough, wealthy enough, good enough, etc.

Would you say any of these things to someone you love? Are any of them really true? In my opinion, none of them are really true…unless we choose them to be.

Better choices: I AM creative, smart, good, good enough, patient, qualified, talented, growing, learning, etc.

7. “I’m sorry”

This is a very recent addition to my “bad word” list, and some might find its inclusion strange. I get it. I have always been big on apologies, both making them when I have erred in some way, and expecting them from those who have offended or hurt me. After all, they are essential to loving, civil and peaceful living. Right?

I’ve watched people, especially children, avoid, squirm and spin magnificent tales in an attempt to avoid these two seemingly simple words. I truly couldn’t appreciate what could be so hard about saying sorry if you really regret some action or behavior.

Then, one day, an answer appeared. I’m not saying that this is a fact, just a thought. What if the word “sorry” is so loaded that the way the person feels saying it compounds the feelings of guilt and shame they already feel regarding the transgression?

On the one hand, the word is an expression of regret. Yet, it also has  negative denotation and connotations. The word is commonly used to define someone or something as pitiful, shameful, unpleasant or regrettable.

When I’m apologizing or seeking an apology, evoking feelings of guilt and shame from the other person is not a part of the deal. Therefore, “sorry” makes my personal bad word list. I still desire and need the relational benefits of a heartfelt apology, made or received, so I’ve offered my family some acceptable substitutes. The reduction in avoidance and squirming is notable. I wonder if I’m on to something…

Better choices: “I apologize”, “I regret”.

8. “I’ll try”

Many years ago, I remember reading that if someone invites you to an event and you say, “I’ll try to make it”, the odds of you actually making an appearance are slim.  People with true intentions to do something generally respond more affirmatively.

Over the years, I’ve observed that assertion to be generally true for myself and others. Intention is pretty powerful. When I reflect on this for myself, “I’ll try” is a phrase that can sometimes be more accurately decoded as, “it’s not likely; however, I’m not really comfortable saying no”.

Better choices: “I will”, “I must”, “You can count on me”. Or, if you really don’t feel like it, be courageous and simply say, “Thanks for the invitation. I can’t make it. I hope it’s an awesome event.”

9. “It’s Impossible”

Much that was previously thought to be impossible has become so common that we no longer question how they came to be an integral  part of our lives. From the telephone to cars to flight and moon landings, there were those who couldn’t imagine any of these things were possible.

Fortunately, those who boldly believe “I’M POSSIBLE” do the so-called “impossible”.

I’m inclined to believe Muhammed Ali’s quote, “If my mind can conceive it and my heart can believe it, I can achieve it.”

Words can douse your precious life flame or empower your life force. Choose them wisely. Being mindful regarding how we use them in reference to ourselves or others can alter our perspective, change what we think, transform how we feel and allow us to touch the lives of others positively in unimaginable ways.

“Close your eyes and imagine the best version of you possible. That’s who you really are, let go of any part of you that doesn’t believe it.”         ― C. Assaad

What’s on your “bad word” list? Please share it with us below or on social media @realtalkdn!

Tune in to our podcast to keep the conversation going! 🙂  “REAL TALK WITH DEB & NIA”

Additional Articles:

Your Words Have Power. Use Them Wisely.

Choose Wisely: How Our Words Impact Others

The Power of Spoken Words

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