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We present a new way of listening to and understanding our children

Neurolinguistic programming

Where does it come from? 

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It comes from studies undertaken at the start of the 60’s by John Grinder and Richard Bandler, on the work of the three most successful psychiatrists in the United States, for the purposes of identifying the mental patterns or programmes they used with their patients and create awareness of them.

Those psychiatrists were Fritz Perls, the founder of Gestalt psychotherapy, Virginia Satir renowned family therapist and Milton Erikson, therapist who used hypnosis as personal therapy, they also studied British anthropologist Gregory Bateson, specialist in communication and systematic therapy.

The studies revealed that although those specialists had different personalities they used patterns that were fundamentally surprisingly similar.

Bandler and Grinder took those patterns and built a model that could be used for effective communication, personal change, overcoming fears and phobias, the generation of self-confidence, accelerated learning and education.

They called this series of principles neurolinguistic programming, explaining that such programming is coded into our nervous system, profoundly connected with our physiology and reflected in both our verbal and non-verbal language.
How can it help us to better understand our children? 

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To better understand our children we must first establish the manner in which they gather, store and code information in their minds, which are known as representative systems. Each of us perceives the external world in a different way, through the information provided by our senses, which we organise into different configurations or programmes.

There are three systems that support out nervous system, which is permanently involved in the production of our experiences.

The visual system, which we use when we look at the external world or visualise something in our mind.

The auditory system, used to listen to both external and internal sounds.

And touch, the so-called kinesthetic system, which includes tactile sensations, remembered sensations and emotions, together with internal sense of balance and body awareness.

We all use our representative systems constantly, paying more attention to one sense or another depending on the activity we are undertaking, but we always display a preference for one of them. This preference for one or other system has certain physical and physiological characteristics and a certain way of thinking.
Children with preference for the Visual, Auditory or kinesthetic System 

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Children with preference for the Visual System

They principally use sight, gathering, coding and processing information through images, and thereby need to see in order to understand the world around them. They tend to be organised and quiet, and they like to have a global view of things.

They are capable of thinking various things at the same time, as well as managing a lot of information at great speed.

They tend to have a higher, sharper tone of voice, and move their hands when they speak, when they think they swivel their eyes upwards and breathe with the top part of their lungs, without breathing deeply.

The way they memorize is through images, and by establishing links between concepts and ideas and it is good to set them goals and objectives.

They also work well with abstract ideas, mathematics, resolving problems and are impatient when they have to listen to something or someone for a long time; they prefer to read than to be read to.

We must bear in mind when it comes to communicating, that they respond better when offered a visual stimulus, requiring greater effort to pay attention to their sense of hearing, and therefore it is always best to show them something visually, with images of what we want them to do, rather than explain it to them with words.

Children with a preference for the Auditory System

They principally use their sense of hearing; gathering, coding and processing information through sound, although when it comes to storing it they must use some visual medium in order to remember it.

These are children who learn by listening, they think and remember in a more sequential and ordered manner, and a little slower, as they have to process one idea after another in a linear manner.

They control their tone of voice and search for more precise words with which to express themselves, and have better recall of what they hear rather than what they read and the names of people.

They have a greater capacity to learn languages and music, and reading aloud improves their learning.

They are people who interpret text and the written word well and express themselves well either in writing or orally, and also follow direction.

Their breathing is quite extensive in the centre of the chest, regular and diaphragmatic, and they tend to sigh.

We must bear in mind that only 10 or 20% of the population are auditory.

Children with a preference for the Kinesthetic System

These are children in whom the predominant sense is touch, and they process information by associating it with feelings, sensations and movements.

Learning is slower than with the other two systems, and it must be focussed on experiencing sensations and interacting with the educational material; physical activities, pictures and experiments will improve their learning.

They are very sensitive children, who are guided more by what they feel than what they think and being in class requires a greater effort as they do not relate it to any sensation. They have a less effective method of storing academic information, but the best one for information pertaining to sport and all things artistic.

They tend to have a deep voice and a slow rhythm of speech with many pauses; their breathing is deep and extensive and they tend to gesture towards themselves, around the chest and stomach area.

They are sensitive to loud noises and tend to be in constant movement, they express themselves through art, writing and performance.

It is advisable to involve them in tasks which require the sense of touch and for them to undertake physical activities both before and after class (body swivels, arm and leg movements), as all liberation of energy will improve their concentration.

Between 30 and 50% of children learn with this system.
It is not what we say that it is important, but how we say it 

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Given that we use words to describe our thoughts, our choice of same will indicate the representative system we use.

The secret of good communication is not so much what is said but how it is said; to create understanding with our children we must speak their language and present ideas in the same way in which they think of them.

We must bear in mind that at time conflict will arise, because we start from the belief that the other person has the same references as us, and uses the same way of thinking and must know what we want to say
The words each child uses according to their representative system 

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Children who are visual use words and expressions pertaining to their preferred sense, i.e. sight.

Words and expressions such as: Look, see, observe, show, at first sight, clear, clarify, image, focus, imagination, interior, scene, visualise, perspective, shine, reflection, examine, watch out, focus, prevent, illusion, illustrate, reveal, inspection, keep an eye on, obscurity, darkness (will depend on the age of the child and his/her vocabulary) If we use these types of words when communicating with our children, and we show them a visual stimulus, we will be able to present them with ideas in accordance with their manner of thinking and we will ensure greater understanding.

Children who are auditory understand and listen in a more receptive manner to words that relate to the sense of hearing.

Words and expressions such as: Say, listen, speak, sound, a manner of speaking, loud and clear, word for word, accent, rhythm, loud, tone, sound, monotone, deaf, pitch, question, accentuate, audible, clear, discuss, proclaim, note, listen, shout, speechless, vocal, silence, dissonant, harmonious, sharp, mute.

These are children we will be able to sit down and talk with and, by using these types of words, we will better convey the message we want them to understand.

Kinesthetic children are very sensitive and are guided more by what they feel than by what they think, therefore all language must be oriented towards the following words and expressions. Words: Touch, feel, contact, push, caress, good enough to eat, to be wiped out, taking a weight off, to smell, experiment, be in contact, good common sense, warm, lukewarm, cold, rough, grab, shove, pressure, sensitive, stress, tangible, tension, touch, concrete, soft, scrape, sustain, itch, scratch, suffer, heavy, smooth.

There are also some words that do not belong to any representative system and are therefore Neutral: Decide, think, remember, know, meditate, recognise, attend, understand, evaluate, process, learn, decide, motivate, change, awareness, consider.
How do they move their eyes? 

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Eye access cues
These are visual signs or cues we have which show us how people access information. There is an innate connection between eye movement and representative systems.

For example, when we visualize a past experience our eyes move up and to the left, when we imagine something they move up and to the right. The eyes move horizontally to the left to remember sounds and to the right to create sounds. When we are holding an internal dialogue our eyes move down and to the left. Glazing the eyes and looking straight ahead is also a sign of visualization. (we must bear in mind that left-handed children tend to invert).

How can we know the system used by our child 

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The most common way is to ask them to tell us about their holidays; in being a memory full of sensations and experiences it will enable them to represent themselves and relive situations.

We must listen to the words they use, whether they move their hands, stroke the table or touch their clothes, the rhythm of their speed and the tone of voice.

How their head works: the cerebral hemispheres 

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The brain hemispheres have different functions; if we know where they are located it will be easier to know which part of the brain our child uses and thereby be able to speak to that part.

Left hemisphere: logical, sequential, linear, symbolic, based on reality, verbal, worldly, abstract, symbols, language, oral expression, follows directions, listens and intuitively associates.

Right hemisphere: Intuitive, random, holistic, concrete, prone to fantasizing, non-verbal, timeless, analogical, spatial relations, shapes and patterns. Artistic expression, creativity, visualization, feelings and emotions.

When we are speaking with our children about any subject relation to intellectual orientation, it is advisable to stand in front of their left side, or next to them on the right, that way you will be speaking to the right ear and the left part of the brain.

If we want to speak with our children about any subject relating to the right hemisphere, we must stand in front of their right side, or next to them on the left, by so doing we will be speaking into their left ear and the right part of the brain.

By so doing we will be telling our children that we love them and saying affectionate words into their left ear and we will ask them to help us with something into their right ear.

We must bear in mind that those children who use just one sole representation system or are kinesthetic are more prone to learning problems, and we must therefore pay them greater attention.
Exercises for our children using imagination  

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The anchor

It is used to evoke a memory or a sensation at any given time, through a visual, auditory or kinesthetic stimulus. It can be used in a situation that causes fear, discomfort or anxiety in our children, to help them to relax and remain calm.

The exercise should be performed at night in bed before going to sleep.
  1. We must tell our children to close their eyes and breathe very slowly, as if they were asleep. We are going to remind them of a situation in which they felt good, maybe some moment from their recent holiday, a trip to somewhere special. They must imagine they are there, we have to ask them what they see, what they hear, what the weather is like, they must imagine the same scene with the greatest amount of detail as possible, and using as many senses as possible.
  2. When they are reliving it, we are going to ask them to press their index finger with their thumb for a few seconds, and to repeat this several times (the stimulus can be visual, auditory or kinesthetic, it can be a photography or any special object).
  3. Now we will tell our child that every time they feel fear or anxiety, they need simply press their index finger to their thumb to remember that special trip or that time they felt so good and this will help them to feel better.
  4. They can open their eyes and relax, the exercise is finished.


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The invisible child

This is used to help our children to be less vulnerable to horrible comments or insults. It should be done at night before going to sleep.

  1. We must tell him/her to close their eyes and imagine they are in a situation where someone says something to upset them (classmates, siblings).
  2. They must now imagine and feel like their body slowly becomes invisible and it doesn’t matter what anyone says, because he/she is now invisible and that sound or that word that upsets them now just passes through them and doesn’t affect them.
  3. Your child can now open his/her eyes and relax, the exercise is finished.

It is a very simple exercise that can help a lot in arguments between children at home.


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Imagination can also help us 

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Each of us sees the world in a different way, there is objective reality, what happens around us and which we perceive through our five senses, and subjective reality which is what takes place solely inside of us.

This subjective reality is the one that governs our behaviour, in other words the reality that only happens inside of us. This, as shown by the latest neuroscientific research, is due to the fact that our brain does not distinguish between a real event and an imagined event. (Psycho-Cybernetics, Dr. Maxwell Maltz). Scientifically the brain operates like a central computer, controlling the body’s functions, both conscious (walking, running, reading) as well as subconscious (breathing, heartbeats, digestion.)

Our senses gather information from our surroundings and the brain gives orders to the body to respond in an adequate manner. This happens when the event is both objective as well as subjective, in other words, when we imagine that something is going wrong, the brain acts and orders the body to respond appropriately. This is why stress can affect us. As well as a physical response, the brain programmes a psychological response, in other words the brain programmes behavioural norms, which make us behave a certain way, and depending on how we behave we will obtain certain results.

We can use our imagination to visualize in our minds a different subjective reality and by so doing our brain will programme the appropriate behavioural norms, and this behaviour will lead us to certain results.

Experts have discovered that there is a type of visualization that can help us to achieve our objectives, whether pertaining to health, prosperity, happiness or any other field, and it is called creative visualization.

It consists in “creating” a reality in our imagination, one that we haven’t experienced before but we would like to achieve, and recreating it in our mind with the greatest number of sensitive stimuli (see, listen and feel) and as much detail as possible, so that we feel as if we were actually in that situation. By so doing and with practice, our brain will produce the psychological response or behavioural norms that will bring us closer to our objective.

We must remember that we live in an imaginary world, and therefore everything we see and that surrounds us is no more than an idea that arose from someone’s mind, and therefore when we use our capacity to imagine we are capable of creating, progressing and confronting incredible challenges.



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