Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.
As I have shared before, Sunday is a very special day in our family. We go to church and then have lunch together each week. When I gather around the table with my grown children and my grandchildren, I am home no matter where we are. I think every mom can relate to the peace that she feels when all her family is in one spot.
My children inspire me as I observe them parenting their children who are 7, 3, and 1. They guide their children with such devotion, skill, and consistency; and I think about how fortunate these three young ones are to have not only loving and well-intentioned parents but also parents who are knowledgeable in early care and education. So it is with passion to educate parents everywhere that I write on this Sunday afternoon.
My friend Peggy O’Mara posted this quote on Facebook: “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” As I reflected on today’s lunch, I must say it was hectic. However, all of us guided and redirected without one harsh word. The one-year-old boy was being a one-year-old boy; and my daughter-in-law was kind, prepared, and respectful at all times. My daughter addressed her seven-year-old with the same polite tone and manner afforded others who were in the restaurant. Her expectations were appropriate; and my son helped by giving his niece smiles, hugs, and kindness.
I share this personal picture only to make this point: Every word that you say and action that you take as a parent matters. My three grandchildren were not hearing negative directives such as “sit down,” “be quiet,” “stop fidgeting,” or words that were even more berating such as “you are bad,” “mean,” “stupid,” “not nice,” etc. Words such as these become a child’s inner dialogue that he will hear over and over in his mind throughout his life.
Life is tough enough. Children who grow up in amazing homes with loving parents who give affirmation and great words of encouragement will still go through phases of self-doubt. However, if we have validated their feelings of inferiority, they will have a very hard time rising above the doubts and bouncing back from them.
Give your child a HUGE advantage in life. Speak kindly. Be gentle. Think about what you are going to say before you say it. If you say the wrong thing, apologize and figure out how to avoid continuing in that pattern. Don’t be too weak to apologize again for the same behavior if you fail more than once. Your children will come to appreciate your authenticity.
There is one clear point I must make: Kindness does not mean weakness or lack of boundaries. In fact, if you want your child to be very insecure, let her be in control. Control frightens young children. Children actually thrive on consistent boundaries that are lovingly enforced. We could not enjoy our lunches on Sunday if my children did not have boundaries for their children.
Take some time at the beginning of this new year to inventory how you speak to your child and other children in your world. Are your words the ones you want ringing in their ears for the rest of their lives? If not, YOU can change them! Words matter … so choose your words wisely. Also remember that some experts believe that up to 93% of communication is NON-VERBAL. So, when taking inventory of your words, do a quick heart check. If your heart doesn’t match your words, figure out how to adjust that. Every child is worth whatever you must do to get it right. Each child has only one childhood, and you have only one chance to impact her at this stage in her development. Make it count!