Today’s parenting lesson is “Not just what you say matters, HOW you say it matters too!”
I have been taking an emotional resilience class with my siblings and mom and we have learned a lot about managing stress, anger, depression and challenges. Our last lesson was about anger and I was very ready to learn more. All of us discovered that our families feel like we are yelling when we are actually just talking in what we feel is our “regular” voice. Suddenly tone of voice is something that needed to be evaluated.
I have also been following along with Ralphie Jacob’s emails teaching about parents managing their strong emotions so that their children can see good examples of emotional control. I love learning about how to be a better parent, but many times, it feels me with guilt because I still have so much improvement to do.
In an effort to be diligent and maybe help others along the way too, I am resurrecting my series of posts about learning lessons from my children. Here are a few past post examples: But I want to be Perfect, Learning Patience from Jane and Behold Your Little Ones.
For quick context, I have three daughters, a son and a I currently 34 weeks pregnant with my fifth (a little girl). I come from a family with strong emotions, loud expressions of those emotions and, sadly, a history of verbal abuse from our deceased father.
I love my children fiercely, but I am not good at expressing my love, and I am too quick to correct and find fault. Everyday I learn a new lesson of love and forgiveness from my kids.
Now, to the parenting lesson for today.
Have you ever told your child that you loved them, but it was forced or said between gritted teeth? Have you ever raised your voice, feeling justified, only to feel sad that you handled it that way.
Only this morning my youngest daughter drew on my brand new $50 faux olive tree with red pen. When my children don’t respect something that I value, it is a major trigger for anger. With furrowed brow and anger, I told her how I felt and kept asking her why she did it.
A few minutes later, as I was brushing my teeth and looking in the mirror, I knew I could do better. I never want my children to think that something I own or an object is more important than them, but I do want to draw boundaries for them. How can I be calm about explaining how sad I am that she didn’t care for something that was important to me?
I went downstairs and apologized. She forgave quickly and seemed to have forgotten it had happened.
So here is some research to help you to find ways to speak with a kind and quiet voice.
“In truth, shouting or speaking with a harsh tone is not the best way to discipline. Bearing in mind that “discipline” means “to teach”, consider the fact that this approach actually inhibits a child’s ability to learn. Kids who are berated, shut down.
Positive Parenting Coach and Love and Logic for Early Childhood Facilitator Heather Wallace explains, ‘If you give commands, or give a consequence with your ‘mean voice’, their brains will automatically kick into fight or flight. This will cause major resistance.'”
Deliver consequences with an empathetic tone. That means your voice is calm and comes from a place of love and understanding. Show your child that you love them while you discipline them.
There is no need to be harsh. The world is already harsh, and you can lovingly step back and allow your child to face its natural consequences, while also being there for them.
In a nutshell: let the consequences speak for themselves. Hold true to your limits while speaking in a loving and empathetic tone.
Elisa Cinelli, an expert in child behavior and certified in positive discipline, also helped me to understand that if the yelling voice is what works now, it won’t work in the long run and will only hurt relationships of trust between parent and child. She also explained that we train our children by what we do consistently. Source.
I would much rather have my kids listen when I am speaking calmly and kindly, how about you?
Another source written by Kathleen Slattengren, shared how parents can create tension in the home through their tone of voice and actually drive their children away from home.
She suggests using positive words and phrases to replace the negative ones that may seem to come more easily at first.
Three examples she uses for negative words that can be made positive:
- “Stop messing around with that!
2. “If you don’t hurry up and get your shoes on, I’m not taking you to school.”
3. “Stop bugging your sister!”
- “That could break, so could you play with this instead?”
2. “I’m leaving in two minutes. I’ll be happy to take you if you have your shoes on.”
3. “Your sister would like to be left alone. Do you want to play a game with me or go outside and play?
When your child speaks to you about anything, does your response depend partly on the tone that they use when they speak?
When my kids are yelling at me to do something, I want to shut down and tell them that I will listen when they can speak kindly and softly.
Now turn the tables and remember that as you speak to your children. I don’t want to make a habit of speaking meanly only to have my kids block me out when I speak normal.
Using appropriate tones will be taught to me more than once. With some practice and mutual forgiveness, I will get better.
Here is to us doing a little better each day!