Hearing is Believing: How Words Can Make or Break Your Kids

Words standing alone, are useless.  When put into a context, matched with  a tone of voice and the underlying intention of the speaker, they can lift you up to the peak of happiness or they can bring you crashing down into the depths of despair.  Words are powerful tools; and when you  use them with your children, you can make or break their spirit; because children listen to what you say.

The connection we have with our parents during childhood, especially how they communicated with us, about us, set the stage for how we developed as adults and the types of relationships that we invested in as we grew up.   If you have been blessed, as I have, with parents who talked with you respectfully, with love and in ways that let you know you mattered, you have, most likely, shared that type of caring with your own children and in other significant relationships in your life. You had a baseline of what it felt like to be given love and to give love.

If your parents spoke harshly to you, criticised you, compared you to others, told you that you are inadequate, stupid or insulted you in some way, then you know that, even as hard as you work on compartmentalized their messages, you still struggle with your self – esteem, at times, as an adult.  Unless you learn how to address the critical voices that you inherited from your parents, they will be your voluntary companions for your lifetime.  You will find yourself imprisoned emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.

Recently, I was in a class room of three and four-year old children.  It was circle time and the teacher, who I must say, is one of the most naturally gifted teachers with whom I have had the pleasure to connect, reminded the children that it was time to sit criss cross apple sauce and listen to the book that she was about to read.  A child to her right, this delicious little red-headed delicate girl, didn’t exactly feel like sitting down in circle time, as she was directed.  She stood up, crossed her arms over her chest, and proceeded to frustratingly pout while tears streamed down her face. Her teacher compassionately gave her the choice to sit down or to take some time to regroup and then find her place back in the circle.  The unhappy and frustrated girl took herself to the quiet spot in the room and completed her moment.

She then walked over to the teacher in circle time, with tears in her eyes and a pouted lip, leaned down to the eye level of the teacher, and while looking at her straight in the eyes simply said, “hug”, as she was heaving with tears.  This wonderful teacher said “of course!” and this sweet little girl, who needed acceptance and forgiveness from her teacher, fell into the teachers lap and snuggled into the bear hug that the teacher gave her.  The child stayed in her lap, wrapped in this teacher’s love, until she was comforted enough to find her seat.  Following her decision to sit, she leaned on the teachers arm and listened to the story.

Had this teacher done anything else than what she did in response to this child; reprimanding her for disturbing the circle, not listening the first time, or for being bad in any way, clearly, this little girl would have been crushed.

Children have the most beautiful spirits inside them.  They come into this world with a clean slate and assume nothing.  They live in the moment, something we adults, often have a hard time doing.  They have simple words, simple thoughts, and fully trust everyone else to love them.  You can see a child’s free spirit when they skip down the hall, sing out loud, and even when they carry around their favorite security item.  They have no expectation that the world has bad people in it and that they will feel pain; they are love and need love.

People often wonder how memories are formed.  Memories become “memories” because of the feelings we attach to the experience. Our feelings are the sticky paper to our life moments.

In my last post, I pointed out what parents need to know about parenting and this, by far, is one of the most important points I can emphasize; understand that what you say to your children and how you speak to them to imprints on their soul and heart each and every time.   Children remember so many things about how they were treated during their upbringing, and if they  “couldn’t measure up” to their parents, they never forget it, and spend the rest of their lives trying to be good enough.

Do whatever you can to connect with your childhood memories and remember what felt good and what stung you.  Decide that, when your child is having behavior that is displeasing to you, you commit to “check yourself” first, before you become angry or lash out at them.  You will be surprised to find that YOUR response says a great deal about where you are and where you should be.

Be in the moment with your children and allow yourself to play again.  And when you speak to or interact with your children, let it all come from a place of complete love and kindness towards yourself and them.  They need to be taught how to communicate kindly to others from your example, how to feel a sense of safety to make mistakes, how to resolve conflict compassionately and to know that you are 100% available to them, whatever their need, coming from a place filled with love, acceptance and with a tender heart.

The words you use matter.  The tone of voice you use matters.  Mix them together like your favorite cocktail and savor the taste of what comes out of your heart and your mouth.

In love and light,

Janis

www.cohenfamilycounseling.com

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