Picture this- you’ve just taken a quick shower only to hear your kids giggling in the other room when you get out. You quickly dress and head into the living room to see what is going on, only to find that your kids have unfolded and piled up every pillow and blanket in the house and dumped all their toys in the middle (including every. single. dang. Lego.). As you walk into the room, they stop giggling, grin and declare ‘Look, Mom! We’re birds and we made a nest!’
You spent all morning tidying up and you see the literal mountain of work you have ahead of you to get back to a semblance of organization. You take a deep breath and choose your words carefully. What do you say?
“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” Peggy O’Mara
You’ve likely heard this quote before, but have you ever stopped and truly thought about the responsibility this carries for us as parents and adults?
With all the media attention about how profound self-talk is to overall health and wellness, it is clear what a huge task we as parents truly have. There are many times when I have caught words literally spilling out of my mouth (words from my parents that I didn’t even know were hiding out there), spoken or acted from a place of stress and anxiety due to a completely unrelated situation than what was going on in front of me, or spoken from a place of ‘make this behavior stop’ instead of true love and understanding. It is SO EASY to keep recreating old behaviors and miss the true connection available in that moment.
However, it is in these challenging times that we find the greatest opportunity to create positive change and to forge the pathways for positive self-talk. We can lay the groundwork for confidence and solid character and it all begins with the words we say and the love with which they are delivered. What is it that YOU would like your children to truly know about themselves? What are the messages you would have your children reflect on and draw from in those most challenging moments? Here are some ideas to get you started:
1. “I enjoy being with you.” message received: I am worthwhile and interesting, and I don’t need to question if I am worthy of your time or attention.
2. “I know you’ll figure this out. You can do this.” message received: I am capable, resourceful, and you believe in my ability to problem solve.
3. “I love you no matter what.” message received: I am always accepted, no matter what choices or mistakes I make. Period.
4. “Your curiosity is so inspiring!” message received: It is valuable to remain open to pursuing interests and exploring the world. It is safe to explore that which I don’t know.
5. “I love the way you think about things.” message received: I am creative and have worthwhile thoughts and ideas. You accept and appreciate the true me.
6. “My heart is so happy when I am around you.” message received: I am enjoyable to be around. I am interesting and others are happy to be around me.
7. “It must have been hard for you when _____. I’m really proud of you for sharing your feelings.” message received: It is safe to share and have feelings. It is a sign of strength, not weakness, and I can trust you when I feel most vulnerable. I can come to you with problems, mistakes and emotions and know that I will not be criticized and my concerns will not be dismissed or downplayed.
8. “I love you exactly the way you are.” message received: I am enough. I don’t need to change myself here because I know that you love and accept the true me- all of me.
Next time you find yourself starting to react, notice it. Breathe into that moment and look at your child. Imagine s/he is asking you ‘what would you have me know about myself in this moment?’ and let that be your guide. You will find a much deeper sense of connection and greater ability to both recognize your child’s intention and problem solve how you can both get your needs met, with pure love and understanding.