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Do you want to create powerful positive change in your kids? Perhaps you are finding it hard to get them to tidy their room, remain focused, manage anxiety or change fussy eating habits? Then check out how NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) techniques may help, and get to learn some skills you can use at home in the process.

NLP tools and techniques are incredibly useful for children as there are so many scenarios where they can make use of them – from dealing with exam stress to improving their memory skills, from building self-esteem and confidence to managing bereavement. The techniques I discuss below are some that you can use at home with your kids.

What is NLP?

NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) is used for therapeutic purposes, in the field of sports, business and education. There is no one thing that describes what NLP is because it is made up of many techniques and activities. The general idea of these activities is that they help you move from an unresourceful emotional state, into a resourceful one or from a problem frame of mind, into a solution frame of mind.

Language (linguistics) forms a large proportion of NLP. For example, it’s amazing how words or phrases (when used in specific contexts) can impact the emotional state and how a person thinks. When you become aware of the impact of your language (both verbal “out loud” language and the language or “talking to yourself” you do in your head), it is much easier to motivate yourself and others in a way that benefits you both.

NLP is also about thinking, beliefs, attitude and behaviours. It isn’t just about fluffy positive thinking or unrealistically hoping for the best. But having a positive attitude will mean that you approach tasks in life with an energetic, open mind, and this can positively impact the results you achieve.

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So here goes. Ten practical ways to help your kids and you make some positive changes for life

  1. Chunk information to make it easier to understand and follow: Chunking is (amongst other things) a way of measuring information. When information is global, we have the overall view of everything there is to know – the bigger picture. When information is specific, we have the details. Some children find global information a bit too much to take in and become overwhelmed, then cant take action. To stop this happening, present information to children in smaller chunks or very specific steps without the big picture. For example, ask the child to tidy their bookshelf, then when that is done, put their clothes away rather than “Go and tidy your whole room.”

Giving the information in small steps makes it much more achievable plus you have the bonus of being able to give encouraging feedback on their progress as they go along which will be much more encouraging to them.

  1. Memory skills using association: A good technique to help children learn more and retain information is to use association. Turning important content and information (such as stuff that needs remembering for tests) into crazy stories will help it stick in the child’s mind more effectively. The more bizarre the story, the more it will stick.
    For example, instead of remembering a list: candle, phone, alien, bed, stick, bottle, fruit machine, candy, box… get them to visualise the following story (remembering the exact wording isn’t important). There once was a little yellow candle that came to life. It picked up the telephone and on the other end was an alien who said it was in bed and couldn’t get up because he was feeling sick. He said he had drunk a whole bottle of red medicine and was now feeling sick and his skin had turned purple. He had got sick after spending all his money at the fruit machine and had won lots of candy. He’d eaten the lot and was now being sick in a wooden toy box.

Remembering the visual images and the content of the strange story is much easier than just remembering a list of words.

  1. Dealing with worries: This technique can work well in helping children with the transitions they experience in life, such as changing school or moving house or for anything that is making your child anxious.

Install a “worry box.” Children write (or draw) their worries on a piece of paper and post them in the box. Just the process of doing this can help to take the weight off their shoulders, but also offers you the opportunity to be aware of and address issues that you might not have been aware of, otherwise.

Exam and test stress. When tests and exams loom nearer, consider what exercises and activities you can do with children and their friends (group activities) to help the tension levels reduce.

When people spend a great deal of time together, a united consciousness can form (which is a bit like when you try calling a close friend at the same time as them calling you!). This means that each student is easily influenced by the thoughts and feeling of their peers, so one person is getting nervous or worried can begin to infect the entire group. Ensuring that the children you interact with are getting some “fun” time amongst the stress which can help all students maintain a more balanced state through those challenging few months.

  1. Giving responsibility: A child who had some challenges with eating came to see me and in the process of discussing the issues and solutions said that she never ate at school even though she is hungry.
    I suggested (with her parents) that she become more involved in cooking her dinners (to help her feel a bit more in control of what she is eating). After thinking abit, she suddenly exclaimed “I could make my lunch too! And maybe have pasta instead of sandwiches all the time. Or a bun, or a wrap. I could even have more vegetables and put them in my lunch!”

Consider where you can give kids more responsibility. If you can make it seem like an exciting treat to do something that is normally reserved for grown-ups (rather than something you hate doing and want to offload on them) they’ll be keen to do it. Wherever you give them more responsibility, you give them more power, and this is especially useful in areas where they have challenges.


  1. Ignore them! Ignoring unwanted behaviour isn’t always appropriate when the behaviour is unsafe, however, it can be a useful technique at times. It works well because children will often seek any attention, whether it is positive or negative. So, ignoring the behaviour, you do not like, while praising the desired behaviour when exhibited can be a very useful technique to help you shape and mould more of the behaviour you want to see and experience. This technique is not an overnight fix but persevere and you will find that unconsciously they soon start to understand the effects of their actions and respond appropriately.


  1. Draw away the problem: Don’t underestimate the power of drawing. An example of the use of art for change is to personify problems, by turning them into gremlins or monsters. Once you have a character on paper, you can begin to make adjustments to their power level.

One little girl drew a monster that lived under her bed and made her want to go and sleep in her parent’s room each night. As soon as I saw the monster, I recognised him as one that in fact is a “guard monster,” who sleeps there to watch over her and protect her through the night. The child never had problems sleeping in her room again.


  1. Focus on what you want, instead of what you don’t. If you want a grumpy teenager to tidy their room, don’t say, “Your room is a total mess, why can’t you be bothered to sort out that dump?” Don’t say this because firstly you are drawing the attention to the mess when what you want them to do is to think about being tidy. Also, the question asked is only going to give you all the reasons why they cannot be bothered to tidy their room. Use this instead “Your room is not looking tidy, and I want it cleaned up, please. When will you be tidying it?” which gives them the opportunity to think of the room being tidy and also embeds the command of “you tidying it.“


  1. Use the skills of someone who can do it. If a child is unsure about how to do something, ask them if they know someone else who can do it (In NLP we call this modelling). When they have thought of someone, get them to attempt the activity again while role-playing (they can do this in their head if they want) as the person they know who is already able to do it. This will often lead to an increase in confidence and therefore lead to better results.
  2. Do Something Nice…. Encourage the children to do “something nice” for someone else in their family. Each member can be asked to write something they’d like someone else to do as a favour or treat with our name at the bottom and then put the papers in a hat. Then we’d draw out a name with their favour on and negotiate a day to do that thing with them.

In the classroom, children could be encouraged to ask for things such as “help tidy my desk” or “learn my French verbs with me.” Not only does it encourage giving and gratitude, but it also can help new relationships to form where they previously did not.

  1. We want to be together: When you’re spending time with your children, really be with them. I had a session with a child, and we did an NLP technique called Perceptual Positions, which involved him becoming his dad and answering questions as for his dad. During one of his answers, he put his hand up to signal me to pause, while he answered an imaginary mobile phone. I had to ask “Dad” to put the phone down and tell him that his phone should be switched off! After the exercise, I asked the boy what one thing he would change if he could, and he said: “I’d like dad to spend more time with me when we are together.” Being in the same room as your child isn’t the same as giving them your undivided time and energy.

Contact Sheena Hendon Health to find out we can support your child to be the best they can be – physically, mentally and emotionally

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