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Happy Talk

A baby with a full tummy, a warm bed, a clean nappy and plenty of cuddles is a happy baby.That's the kind of happiness we strive through our lives to find again, and it seems that it doesn't get easier as we get older.

So what happens to us? Why do we lose that fabulous feeling of wellbeing, of contentment and of just being happy in our own skin? Where do we get that discontent, that feeling that we've let ourselves down, that so many of us find so depressing?

If we can find some ways of helping our children keep their natural state of happiness, we can help them grow into happy people.

Tracking what we say to them is a good starting point. Have you listened to adults talking to children? So often our conversation is full of don't.

Don't pull the cat's tail. Don't run into the road. Don't talk with your mouth full.

It goes on throughout our lives. We talk so often about the things we can't do, and thinking about the negatives in our lives can get to be a habit. And it's all because of the language we use.

We can reverse that habit. We can focus on the positive, without losing a sense of reality, just by changing the things we say.

Here's an example. Telling us not to do things so often has the opposite effect.It can even be dangerous.Remember that classic instruction to anyone dangling at the end of a rope halfway up a cliff face: Don't look down?

As soon as we hear that, our instinct is to follow the instruction and look down. Our unconscious reaction doesn't pick out the don't part of the instruction: that comes later, when we've already looked and it's too late.

How much better it would be to say: look up to see how close the next handhold is. That gives a much more sensible message.

If we choose this way of turning negative into positive, we can give our children happy messages that will make them feel more optimistic.

We won't tell them: you're hopeless at maths. We'll say: you're great at drawing, let's see if we can get your maths as good as that.

We won't say: stop shouting. We'll say: see how quietly you can talk today. If you listen to really good teachers, they talk in this way all the time and they get great results from the children they teach.

If we get into the habit of talking positively, we'll find again some of that contentment we knew when we were babies. Even more importantly, maybe our happy talk will help our children to grow up to be happier people.