by Sue Kranz
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”
This experiment tests whether or not that’s true, or whether our words − and perhaps even our thoughts and indifference − actually have an impact on our teens.
I first read about the rice experiment in The Hidden Messages in Water by Masaru Emoto. It piqued my curiosity, so I tried it for myself − 3 times. And each time I got the same result. Here’s how I did it:
- When I made rice, I made a bit extra, and put equal amounts of the plain cooked rice in two small, clean, sealed glass jars. (You can find glass jars with glass stoppers at the Dollar Store.) Then I placed them on a small table in the kitchen where they were clearly visible and where I would walk past them several times a day.
- For the sake of consistency, I placed them in the same location so they received equal amounts of light, heat, etc. and I was careful to put the same amount of cooked rice in each jar.
- Several times a day I would say “Thank you” to one of them and “You fool” to the other. I let others in the household know what I was doing and invited them to participate. (Alternately, you could set everyone in the house up with their own set of jars so you can all see if the results are consistent.)
- If there are other unkind or judgmental thoughts you have about your teen, use one of those instead of “You fool” − e.g., “You’ll never amount to anything,” “There’s something wrong with you,” “You’re just a lazy good-for-nothing,” etc.
I continued the experiment for a couple of weeks and was astonished by what I saw: in the jar that I thanked, the rice turned mouldy, but it was a fluffy, white mould. In the other jar, the rice turned grey.
This is what Mike refers to as “a statistically significant sample of one,” so I redid the experiment but switched the position of the jars – and got the same result.
Then I added a third jar of rice, but instead of saying “Thank you” or “You fool,” I ignored it. The result? The rice in the “Thank you” jar again developed a snowy white mould, the rice in the “You fool” jar developed a greyish mould – and the rice in the jar I ignored developed a black mould – and much more quickly than the other two.
Mike, being scientifically minded, said, “I can’t explain it, but I can’t deny what I’m seeing either.”
In his book Choice Theory, William Glasser discusses the effect of our words and actions on others. He lists 7 behaviours that push others away from us – criticizing, blaming, complaining, nagging, threatening, punishing, and bribing – and 7 behaviours that bring others closer to us – supporting, encouraging, accepting, listening, trusting, respecting, and negotiating differences. If you want to see how your thoughts and words impact your teen, or even if you’re mildly curious, this experiment is worthwhile.
If you try this for yourself, please send in your observations!
Want to know more about Choice Theory? My PDF booklet Who’s Driving YOUR Car? and handout Six Things: How to create healthy boundaries are now available for download on my website at www.sanerparenting.com/downloads/. And if you want to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I always welcome your comments and questions!