Is the way we communicate with our children impacting their wellbeing? Are we planting future seeds, guiding decision making processes and teaching good communication? What about the way we interact with them, our spouse/partner and friends, is this embedding behaviours to model in their life? The answers are an overwhelming YES!
We strive to do our best in raising our children and we all have different strategies to support them. In a recent report by the Australian Research Alliance of Children/Youth, it showed one in five Aussie kids are experiencing ‘frequent yelling’. The alliance’s report, To Have and To Have Not, found 20% of children aged eight and nine reports experiencing ‘frequent yelling’ in the home. “Frequent yelling”, was classified by children saying they “always” experienced yelling. Eminent child psychologist Michael Carr-Greg said; “The impact is increased anxiety, poor self-esteem and depression.
Parenting is a huge job which has many challenges. We are their first teacher and life-long mentor, striving to develop empowered young beings. Unconsciously we raise our children how we were raised, what we observed from our parents relationship, being spoken too, loved and how we felt; this becomes our blueprint. “Children learn what they live – if they live with CRITICISM, they learn to CONDEMN, if they live with APPROVAL, they learn to LIKE themselves.”
It starts when children learn to understand, read, and write words. Being mindful of every word we say is paramount. Avoiding words with negative connotations, like “no,” “don’t,” or “bad” and negative adjectives; “ugly,” “lazy,” and “selfish.” Words used in the presence of our children tend to stay, according to experts.
“Calling a chid ‘selfish,’ or implying there is something wrong with her/him is harmful,” said clinical psychologist Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D.* “Kids internalise these negative labels and begin to see themselves as ‘not good enough.” Children believe us. Negative and positive language is carried into adulthood.
“Those messages play like endless tapes. ‘How could you be so stupid?’ ‘You can’t do anything right.’ ‘This is why no one likes you,’ says Karyl McBride, Ph.D.* “Shaming and humiliation causes fear in children. This fear stays as they grow up. It becomes a barrier for a healthy emotional life and is difficult to eradicate.”
In the same way, saying, ’I love how you did your best,’ ‘Next time, what could you do differently?,’ or ‘you know you can do it’. These frames ‘stick’ when spoken often and with love.
In the heat of the moment negative words to discipline will be said, with the goal of controlling or correcting behaviour. Unfortunately, continuing these methods will cause psychological and emotional pain and won’t correct the behaviour. Adolescents who have experienced harsh verbal discipline in the past from parents have a higher probability of displaying negative behaviour, irritability, depression, and anger problems.
Greenberg advises “It is important to take some time to connect with your own feelings and calm down using deep breathing or self-talk before letting these emotions leak and derail your communication with children,”. Easier said than done we think, however, what if Greenberg’s words worked?
We can make a choice, becoming aware of how we are being. We can continue to speak positively, praise and guide or let negative words and emotions slip. A change could be allowing ourselves to ‘be present’ and really listen. Ask, could I do this differently? Positive language can absolutely turn things around, for all parties.
Parenting leans towards mentoring as opposed to correcting. Helping children differentiate between right and wrong, modelling decision making skills etc, all supporting intellectual, social, and emotional capacities.
We want our children to feel loved and cared for, given attention too. Awareness is the key to being well equipped parents. “If children live with PRAISE, they learn APPRECIATION.”
Creating balance for ourselves and children.
- Use language we want our children to use. Modelling to them,
- Reward behaviour, respect others – children are just little versions of us,
- Turn negative statements into positives before communicating,
- Let any ‘past baggage’ being carried, go; work with a coach/psychologist/therapist,
- Communicate what could be done instead of what not to do,
- Be loving and supportive,
- Remember, we are all different – including children,
- Leave out using hurtful conditions, sarcasm and adult personal issues – take time out if needed,
In the end, they grow up. They fly the nest and branch out on their own, it’s our job as parents to guide them with skills and tools to be empowered, safe, wise and independent adults. They will become their own masters.
“Children have to be educated, but they have also to be left to educate themselves.”
~ Ernest Dimnet