Getting Right What We Say!
Week 1: “You” Messages
This month we’re taking some time to think about some of the things that ‘Big People’ say. The reality is, that what we say to our children has a long and lasting impact, well into their future. Every honest parent can confess to a moment of hearing something come out of our mouths, directed at our child, that really should have been left unsaid. It’s so easy for our words to slip out! A child’s mind is full of questions, perhaps the greatest of which is “Who am I?”, “What kind of person am I?”, “Where do I fit in?” Our Little Ones answer these questions from the things they hear and experience. Whether the message is “You are so clumsy” or “You’re a great listener”, these statements from important ‘Big People’ will go deeply and firmly into a child’s unconsciousness. Let’s make sure that we are sending our gorgeous Little People the right “You” messages. Messages about skills and abilities are good, but messages that affirm their character and their innate value will go right to their heart, answering their big question. Your child will be able to say with confidence “I am…” What are some quality ‘You’ messages you can send your child? How about starting with some of these: generous, loving, kind, strong, brave, courageous, helpful, hopeful, trustworthy, joyful….
Week 2: Be Honest
What we say has a lasting impact on our children. If we’re honest, we can probably think of a time when we’ve tried to push aside our feelings and say the bright, positive words we think our children want to hear. Children pick up on far more than our words. They are busy reading ALL the signals we are sending. Don’t pretend to be happy or loving when you aren’t feeling that way. It’s confusing for our children when our words don’t match what they are experiencing. We can be honest about our feelings without upsetting or putting our children down. They can handle “I’m really tired today”, or “Right now I’m feeling angry…, especially if this matches what they have sensed all along. It’s good for our children to realise that we are human too! Labelling our emotions is also important as it teaches them the vocabulary that is important for their own self-regulation. This week when you are tempted to plaster on a smile or lash out with angry words, take a breath and calmly tell your child how you REALLY feel.
Week 3: Tell it like it is
Children can handle the truth. In fact, they crave the security of knowing that the important ‘Big People’ in their lives can be trusted to be honest. Sometimes in moments of frustration we may say something wildly untrue such as “If you don’t stop that, the policeman will come to get you” or “You’re so naughty! Nan and pop won’t want to visit you anymore!”. Our children take us at our word. As they move through the world they test our credibility about what they hear and experience from others. In times of frustration, instead of arguing or threatening, it’s ok to put our foot down and say, “Because I say so”. There is never anything to be gained from using scare tactics and threats. When our children encounter dishonesty later in life, they will at least know that some ‘Big People’ are trustworthy and safe to be around. Let’s lead our Little Ones with truth and love, and leave the scare tactics behind.
Week 4: Replenish Your Resources
This month we have been focusing on the impact that our spoken words have on our Little Ones. We’ve talked about sending the right ‘You’ messages, being honest about our feelings, and leaving out the scare tactics. Getting it ‘right’ is a challenge for all parents, and it is easy to be overwhelmed by feelings of regret and guilt. Tension can become the norm. Let’s finish the month by thinking about the importance of dealing with tension. When we are stressed it is easier to take out our frustration and anger on our partners and children, saying things we really know we shouldn’t. It’s hard to stop the words slipping out. We need to pause for a moment and ask ourselves “Who am I really angry with?”, “Why am I feeling so uptight?”. The relief of verbally lashing out is always short-lived. Managing our stress is so important for managing our relationships. We need to tackle our tension to improve our communication. How can you fit something that refreshes and relaxes you into your routine?
Written by Alison,
Principal Speech Pathologist
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