Language is powerful. It has the ability to build up or tear down, highlight weaknesses or exalt strengths. Momentous Institute is committed to being mindful about its voice and changing the narrative. What if we all sought to find ways to change the labels surrounding children? Here are a few lenses we can all use to be strengths-focused:

1) Ask good questions.

Before you describe a child or family, ask questions like, “Does the person describe themselves this way?” “Is this deficit language or asset language?” “Am I describing this child by what he has to offer to his community or by what he is lacking?” Asking good questions allows for greater intentionality in our speech and ensures a voice that will build others up instead of tear down.

2) Change the buzz words.

Instead of using terms like “at-risk,” “weak” or “broken,” a great strategy involves changing any negative word into a positive! Allowing our tone to be more hopeful, with growth in mind, is much more beneficial to everyone, especially children. Here are a few examples of ways to modify terms so they are more strengths-focused:

  • "Challenged" -> "Gritty"
  • "Poor" -> "Lacking equitable opportunities"

3) Avoid the stereotypes.

In our culture today, it can be easy to fall into stereotype “traps” that can put roadblocks in front of children given their unique personalities and talents. Often, society will unintentionally create negative labels for children. Whether its linking some children to poverty because of their race or girls always being labeled as more emotional than boys, we have to commit to challenge these labels. A new narrative has the opportunity to transform negativity into positive language rather than biases.

Momentous Institute believes we should focus on children’s strengths rather than what they “should do” because of their gender, race or background. With this belief, the organization invites you to challenge language with us so we can encourage a future generation of changemakers!

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