Have you heard the adage, “The way we talk to our child becomes their inner voice?”
The sentiment is viral in the parenting world. When I first read this, I honestly thought, “Oh man, another responsibility.”
But words can’t be taken back. To think that what we say about children will be what they hear for the rest of their life seems like a heavy charge. And that is because it is.
Basically, we can imagine our children walking around with tape recorders in their heads. As they get older, the recordings will be on repeat.
Changing the way we talk about our children takes practice and intention.
You can’t say you want to talk more positively about your child and wake up the next morning doing it.
There is a language to learn. The good news is that it is an easy language to learn once you have the right tools.
Changing your patterns when it comes to talking to others about your child requires you to evaluate your why.
Why is it a great idea to talk respectfully and positively about our child?
For one, the way we talk about our child is going to influence them for a lifetime.
Secondly, the way we talk about our child will even have an influence on our grandchildren and generations after that! Isn’t that amazing?
The way we talk to our children can influence our legacy!
- It builds stronger bonds and relationships.
- Our children feel worthy.
- Our children feel loved.
- Our children listen to us better.
- Children imitate what we say.
- The way we talk to and about our children becomes their inner voice. (This is enough in and of itself.)
- Your child is more likely to respect and trust you.
- The child develops higher self-esteem.
- The child is more confident.
Why The Inner Voice of a Child Matters
Think about it for a moment. How did your parents and/or caregivers talk about, and how did it impact your own inner voice?
I still hear statements from my swim instructor when I swim laps as a workout. “Blow bubbles as you take a breath.” I still hear my teachers’ voices, both the good and the bad. “Some students are not cut out for math.” “You are a star. You could write books for a living.”
My aunt’s cooking advice still comes out when I season a salad. My grandmother’s gardening advice comes to me when I am in the flower bed. I hear my music teacher when I strum the only few notes I know how to play on a piano.
Be Intentional When Speaking About Your Child
Kelli, our BCBA, says, “As we express concerns and name character traits about our kids to our partners, our friends, or even the professionals who are there to help, the kids are listening. They know we are talking about them, and their identities are developing. When our kids hear us describe them as “wild,” they continue to act wild. When we label our daughters as “sassy,” they continue to talk-back. When your son hears he is a “picky-eater” he continues to be selective with his plate. Why does this happen? Well, when our kids hear the people whom they love and trust most describe them, they believe it! And what we believe in ourselves influences our actions. Our actions influence what others believe about us which confirms those beliefs we had. This phenomenon is referred to as “the self-fulfilling prophecy.” So, while we are hoping the “sass” and the “picky eating” is a phase, these labels are developing into self-identities.”
So, what can you do?
Kelli says, “help build your child’s self-identity with words that empower and inspire. Tell them and others that they are brave, kind, adventurous, creative.”
So, take the time to STOP and think when you are inclined to describe your child in a less than beautiful light. Find REASONS to tell someone else something wonderful about your child and make sure she is in the room to hear it. When you are talking to his teacher, you might say, “Michael is strong and has a zest for life” instead of lamenting how wild he was while waiting.
One teacher said when her children were young, she would pick up her phone and find reasons to brag on her kids. She wouldn’t even call anyone. She would just casually pretend to dial the phone within her child’s presence and brag. “Hi Grandma. Yes, I heard about that on the news too. I know. The price of milk is outrageous. And can you believe how kind your grandson is? He is just the most respectful boy. Yes, yes, I am proud of him too.”
None of this is to say parents should not discipline and guide their children. But the way we speak about our children to others should be guided only by positivity.
You can make a difference in your child’s inner voice no matter how old your child. Start today and start the tape over. It will matter.