"The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice." - Peggy O'Mara
We also believe this powerful (and true) statement is applicable to the way we talk about children in their presence.
We have a society that speaks so negatively of children without even realising, and sadly this is often done in the child's ear shot.
"How would I like it"?
For adults, a common dislike is others "talking behind their backs", and yet how much worse would it be to have this talking done right in front of us? It is something we wouldn't think to do to another adult, and it is so important we give our children the same respect. As always, our golden question should be, "how would I like it"?
Children don't miss a thing. They truly hear everything, whether they appear to be listening or not. They hear us if we complain about them to other adults. They hear us if we compare them to others. They hear our words and tone, and they even catch the non verbal - sighing, eye rolling, head shaking and other signs of exasperation and disappointment.
Alter your view
When we are surrounded by attitudes to children that so quickly class them unfavourably, we have to work consciously to eradicate this same negativity from our own language.
Descriptors like 'terrible twos', 'naughty', 'stubborn' or 'demanding' don't help children. They box them into a role that they likely end up playing out.
Language like that also doesn't help us. It colours our perspective.
However, when we speak positively about children, our view can alter. We see them in a different light. We can appreciate them for who they truly are. We can strengthen the relationship and soften our own hearts. We can remember what it is like to be new on the planet and not have everything figured out yet, and we can show grace for missteps along the way.
Our children live up or down to our perceptions of them. We want them to thrive and feel like being them is enough. The child cannot choose how they are spoken about but we have the power to choose how we speak about them, to who and when.
They don’t miss a thing
The great thing is our children don't miss a thing. They hear everything we say, even if it seems they aren't listening. They will hear us if we thank them for their participation, their thoughtfulness or just for being them. They will hear us saying to other adults how much we enjoy their company, or that we love our role as the teacher or parent in their life. They will catch our non verbals - our shining eyes when we speak of them, or a fond smile in their direction.
These are the actions that fill up heart tanks and make our children feel good. These will lead to a comforting, positive inner voice, and what a gift this is for a child!
(This article was adapted from a previously published blog post 'Filling up the heart tank')