How To Empower Children To Change Their Stories

How might you begin to help children realise they can reach goals? Well I’m changing the way I do it. Starting from the beginning.

It’s my belief that we are the stories that we tell ourselves. We are the stories that we believe to be true about us. A story may be a detailed narrative over several pages, or it may be very concise such as: ‘I can’t say no’, ‘you’ll never catch me doing that’ or ‘it’s always been that way’.

A story doesn’t need to be packed full of images, feelings and thoughts to have a massive impact in our lives; or, importantly, in our decisions.

Perhaps there are things you can think of now that are similar. Little scripts that you play that halt you from doing something. What, for instance, could you do right now that you know would have a positive impact on your self-esteem and confidence? Even if it’s a little thing, what’s that one thing you can action that will give you that feeling? Just notice it. If you have something in mind, then ask yourself, what is the story you’re telling yourself that is stopping you from doing it? Think of it this way: what are you ‘assuming’ that stops you from taking action. Perhaps you know the answer now, easily.What many of us have believed at some time or other is that these stories, assumptions, are automatic and unchangeable. Whilst it’s fair to say that they are hardwired, they are changeable, they can be torn up, you can cut the circuit.

Dwelling on the negative simply contributes to its power.

– Shirley MacLaine

This awareness is what I begin with at the start of my sessions and workshops: we are our stories, and we can choose which ones to believe, so let’s choose the ones that empower us. Here’s how I do it: on a flip chart I write out a selection of events of my life which you could label as bad decisions, difficult situations or just negative experiences. I go through each one and just explain some details so they have a richer picture about each event. I let them absorb the information and really let it rest in their minds, getting them to notice how those things might feel. Then, on another sheet, I write all the things that I’m happy about, proud of and what I regard as positive and empowering. I explain to the pupils that both of these are stories are true and accurate. They all happened and are all part of  my story, of who I am.

They begin to ask better questions and challenge how they are representing themselves

With this information, I ask, what decisions or choices would I make if I made the main story of my life the negative one? What effect would believing all this have on how I saw myself? How would I go about deciding things? What choices might I make? And as the replies increase, I ask another set of questions: how high or low would my self-esteem be? What about my confidence? How would I handle new challenges or problems? Then, to compare, we’d go through the positive story. And I ask, which one do I choose to believe? Which one empowers me? Which one restricts me?

It is at this point that you notice they are already sifting through their own thoughts and own ideas. They are looking and questioning what they believe about themselves. They begin to ask better questions and challenge how they are representing themselves. As they go through this process, I ask: what stories are you choosing to believe about yourself? What stories do you send to the background and which ones do you bring to the foreground. Because these foregrounded stories are the ones we base our decisions and choices on. And wouldn’t it be nice to focus our attention on what we have achieved rather than what we’ve not? Isn’t that a story worth changing?


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