What’s the secret to raising positive kids who believe they can change the world? Short answer: There is none. There is no one secret to raising children who are positive, who get good grades or who go on to change the world. But there is one technique that could make a big difference. And it is vastly underused.

World Changing Kids - Positive Declarations
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Perhaps you are just like a coaching client of mine. Perhaps you are just like me and the countless others I have interacted with who are just like him and I.
Perhaps your parents never told you that you could change the world, either.
But you don’t want that for your kids (and if you don’t have children of your own, apply this to yourself, your nieces and nephews, or anyone over whom you have influence). You want them to believe in themselves, to believe that they have meaning and purpose in this world, to believe that they can change the world.
I want that for you. I want that for our daughter. I want that for all of the children in this world.
So how do we do it?

I am…

I believe that the secret, if you can even call it that, lies in the power of declarations. No, I don’t mean Stuart Smalley saying, “I am good enough, I am smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.” I fell into the trap myself of allowing spoofs like that to taint my view of positive declarations. I saw them as tricks that weak people play and laughed at the character on Saturday Night Live.
But the reality is that declarations are powerful. They work. Some of the top achievers and world changers across the globe use them. And they even work on kids.
In fact, what better time to start declaring that your child can and will change the world than when they are young?
We started with Aracelli when she was approximately four months old. I made the declarations for her. I said:

You are beautiful.
You are smart.
You are creative.
You are talented.

And so on.
As she reached the age when she could put together three and four word sentences, she began to declare one or two of them on her own, progressing to a full three minutes worth of declarations each night before bed.

Daddy, will you…

One night, when she was a little older than two years old, somehow I had forgotten it was time for declarations. I don’t think I’d ever forgotten before, but it was late and we were a little out of our bedtime routine.
Then Aracelli looked up at me and said, “Daddy, will you please hold me to do my declarations?”
And we began:

I am beautiful.
I am talented.
I am energetic.
I am blessed.
I am loved.

That is a moment I will never forget.

You decide

The most common objection to doing declarations with children or alone is:

They’re kind of corny.

Yeah, and?
I’d rather be a total cornball and make history than live a life of mediocrity. Normal is moping around, watching Entertainment Tonight wishing that you had someone else’s life, feeling average, being average, and being forgotten by history.
But not me. I am a history maker! I am world changer!
So if that means I am corny, I can live with that.
(Not to mention that most of the world changers I can think of: Warren Buffett, Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, and Isaac Newton to name a few…all cornballs, so you’ll be in good company)
You decide: Cornball world changer or average.

What if my child is older?

Start now.
It’s never too late to start. It’s never too late to start yourself.
Don’t concern yourself with the lost years just because you missed out on doing this with your kids when they were infants. That doesn’t matter now.
It’s never too late to develop positive, healthy habits with your kids.

What do we say?

You simply declare truths. You declare the best version of yourself and others and have your kids do the same.
I suggest picking the simplest form of words, so “I am intelligent” is better said, “I am smart.”
But the most important thing is to make them your declarations and to say them out loud about yourself. If your children are too young, declare them to them. You’ll be amazed at how quickly they pick up on them once they can speak.

Action item: Start with your kids today. Download my free Declarations Cheat Sheet. It’s a simple list of phrases you might start with. Pick some of them, pick all of them. It’s up to you.

You are a world changer. Your kids are world changers.
Believe it. Become it. Pass it on.
What has stopped you from doing declarations with your children or yourself?

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16 thoughts on “You Can Raise World Changers – The Power of Declarations for Kids

  1. Let's Grow Leaders says:

    I find it’s important to weave positive messages in… mostly to reinforce hard work, persevernce… “you really worked hard on that and it payed off” “wow! see what happened when you really stuck to it!” “you really pushed hard at the end of that race”

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      I agree. Aracelli earned $2 for helping me pick up sticks in the yard Saturday. She spent $1 on herself and $1 on a Mother’s Day gift. I have never seen someone so proud of paying for something. And we won’t stop talking about it. Ask her where money comes from. The answer is “work.”

  2. David Mike says:

    I downloaded the list. My wife is so good about doing this type of thing with our three daughters.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Awesome David! Start doing them today and it will change their lives. I suggest as often as possible that you do them all together.

  3. Lily Kreitinger says:

    LOVE this, Matt!!! I shared with some friends last night how doing a list of lies I have heard in my life from my parents, relatives, teachers and leaders was very liberating, especially when I labeled it “LIES” in big red letters and then I filled a page with “TRUTHS” in green ink. The truths were very similar to the declarations: “I am loved” “I am talented” “I am good enough”… And yes, You are a world-changer.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Good timing, huh? That is great that you did that. More people should. Sounds like you have some great friends!

      1. Lily Kreitinger says:

        Printed the cheat sheet. Thanks, Matt!!

  4. Bill Benoist /Leadership Heart says:

    I recently read where an annual US survey of teenagers were asked, “Who is your hero?” For the first time in 21 years the number one response was not an athlete. Number one was Mom and Dad. Number two was grandma and grandpa. Once again, the importance of the nuclear family was foremost for this generation and I see no downside. I think the relationship with your daughter is proof to this 🙂

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      No kidding? That is awesome! Do you have a link to that by chance?

      1. Bill Benoist /Leadership Heart says:

        This particular citation was from LifeGiving Mentors – A guide for investing your life in others by Tim Elmore, pg 22. I picked up three of Tim’s books after landing on his page a month or so back – http://www.growingleaders.com

  5. LadyMcKermit says:

    Wow. Powerful and Simple. The best ideas usually are. Great post, Matt!

  6. Jana Botkin says:

    One of the best stories I’ve ever read is “The Help”. The maid says to the little girl every day, “You is good, you is smart, you is important.” Very very touching.
    But aren’t we supposed to give everyone a trophy just for showing up and then they’ll all have great self-esteem? Actually, no, then they will have a misguided sense of their own accomplishments and over-estimate what they should be paid for menial labor or fresh-out-of-college jobs.
    All of life is a balancing act.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Cool story. And you are right. I’m not declaring to Aracelli that she is an astronaut…that could go poorly. But if she wants to be, then by all means, declare away!

  7. I used to call my girlfriend beautiful until she told me about an interesting study done with elementary school kids. One group was told they were smart, the other were praised for their effort. The “smart” ones were less inclined to try new things because of the risk of being exposed as not actually smart, while the ones praised for their efforts wanted to take on new challenges.
    The problem with telling someone they’re smart, beautiful, or whatever is then they feel like they have something to lose.
    Though I’ve also read that children under 5 or 6 can’t distinguish fact from falsehood, so if you tell your children a message like this when they’re really young, maybe it’ll become a part of their identity and not a losable thing? Not sure.
    In any case, I expect that with your attitude and energy, you’re going to raise a world-changer there Matt!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      I think that study was faulty (if I remember it correctly) in that it was too isolated. Now, of course, they have to do this to control it.
      If you tell one group “you are smart, you are smart, you are smart” and the other “you are willing to try new things, you are willing to try new things, you are willing to try new things” well…duh, which group is going to try new things?
      That’s an exaggeration of the study of course. But I believe you can tell your children “you are smart” and “you are creative, you are daring, you are adventurous, you are brave, you are…”
      And have them declare the same.
      Make sense?

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