Words are powerful.
I’ve always known and believed this, but I’ve very seldom put thought into what I say and how I say it.
Lucky for me, I have two sets of eyes and ears on me at all times to reflect back the reality of my mouth.
Children absorb and regurgitate everything. Listen to how your kids talk about themselves. How they talk to others. The words they use. Are they labeling and demeaning others? Do they curse in their imaginary conversations? Do they make angry faces and sounds often? Do they have an air of entitlement?
Here’s my 12 step program to bring more awareness to your speech and parenting and simultaneously improve the language and behavior of your children..
- No swear words. If the boys swear, we’ll usually pause and think of more creative descriptive words that could fill that space. Sometimes just a reminder to please use a nicer word helps.
- No name calling by anyone for any reason. Also, words like stupid, retarded and idiot; gone, regardless of the context in which they’re being used. When someone slips we kindly remind them, “That’s not a word we use in this house.”
- No criticizing, labeling, judging or putting down ourselves and/or other people. Your motives in using these words do not matter. If your children hear them, they will repeat them, usually at the most inappropriate times. This seems to be one of those things that happens most often when you’re relating a story to another adult. Try using uplifting, kind descriptions of others instead of focusing on their flaws.
- Watch your tone- This has been the hardest for me. I’m one of those people who can use the nicest words possible but my tone can convey anything other than love and kindness.
- Volume control- Ooooohh, another difficult one, but an area in which I’ve had great success. It seems once you take away all the bad things you want to say, suddenly there’s not much to yell about. I’ve also found whispering to the kids, or taking a moment of silence has a much greater effect than yelling, on them and me.
- Put a stop to the blame game- Talk about difficult. I’m still in process here, but when I saw my oldest blaming everyone else for everything, I knew I had work to do on myself. It doesn’t matter who did what, just take the situation at face value and do what you can to remedy the issue. No blame necessary.
- Focus your attention on the things you love about your husband/kids, and then verbalize them. I love your smile. You are so cute. I love you. You make me laugh.
- Smile more. It was a sad day when I realized how often I was directing angry, disappointed or disgusted faces at my kids.
- Respond to the child, don’t react to their fits- Super difficult, but when I can remember this one, I lighten up in the face of their meltdowns and am suddenly able to cope with and respond to the hysteria rather than adding to it.
- Use language and mannerisms you’d like for your children to display. I make sure I have their eye contact and say thank you verbally and in sign language. (The first time my 18 mo. old signed thank you to me for some blueberries, my heart melted.) Use polite words, words of gratitude, honesty, and kindness. Please. I apologize. My behavior wasn’t acceptable and I’m working on it. I love you. I’m happy to spend time with you. Excuse me. Let me help you. Let’s work as a team. I’m happy to share with you. Also, display gratitude, joy, peace, calmness, whatever qualities you’d like your kids to have, you first have to embody.
- Instead of getting angry about what’s already happened, observe the damage, take a breath and gently suggest that next time they might do (fill in the blank) differently, or not at all. If what they did hurt another, discuss how that person is feeling and agree that’s something we won’t do in the future. This is also a good time to suggest things they can do in place of that action next time.
- Don’t discuss money or lack around the kids and as little as possible with each other. We openly talk about abundance and blessings, how we can use what we have, etc. But the phrase, “We don’t have enough money,” is no longer used.
Bringing awareness to how I talk with and in front of my children has been a Pandora’s box of lessons, many of which I’ve not yet completed. I wish you luck and joy as you challenge yourself to be a better parent and a better speaker.