Take a moment and close your eyes.
Are they closed?
Oh, wait, if they’re closed then you can’t read what to do next! Oops!
Okay, keep your eyes open, and think about what your inner voice sounds like. Our inner voice is that internal cheerleader or critic that comments on what we do, think, or say throughout the day. Is it positive? Negative? A mix of both?
There are a number of things that impact the inner voice we have as adults, but the single most important influencer was your parents. How your parents talked to you – the words they used, and the tone they used with those words creates the fabric of your inner voice. And just as their voice turned into your voice; the way you speak to your children now directly impact how they will view themselves, talk to themselves, and interact with others as adults.
No pressure, right?
But there is hope!
Here are 7 truths to help you bless your child with a positive inner voice that can carry them through the hard moments of life they will face as both as kids, and as adults.
- You don’t have to be a perfect parent! See! I told you there was hope. I’m guessing there is not a single person on the planet that has not at one time or another used harsh words, or a harsh tone with their kids. I know I have! Part of the problem of being a therapist is that I am acutely aware of exactly how I am screwing up my children. Believe me, those are not fun moments. Inner voices are not formed in a single moment. They are formed over time with consistency. If the way you talk to your kids is positive 75% of the time (I made that number up), then you are winning in my book.
- Harsh words, and a harsh tone can be repaired with a heartfelt apology. When you apologize to your kids you are not only teaching them the art of asking for forgiveness, which will serve them well in their adult relationships, but you are soothing those negative voices with a positive one.
- Healing your inner voice will help you use a life-giving and affirming voice with your kids. This goes back to the idea that having healthy self-esteem is not selfish, which you can read more about here. When we try to do better as a parent, but are fighting against our own woundedness, we will always lose. Using willpower to be a better parent will set you up for exhaustion, and failure. Willpower is a limited resource, and as a parent you will likely use it up before lunch. True healing that happens from the inside out doesn’t require willpower; it just flows out of who we are. So do some work on you. There are more ideas on exactly how to do that in the article I mentioned above.
- Learn your triggers. I know that I am much more likely to speak harshly to my kids when I am tired, hungry, or hormonal. All three together? It’s just best I’m not around humans at all! So, I have started to work on recognizing when my frustration level is rising when it is still a 3 out of 10, instead of a 7. Once it gets to 7, I’m yelling; there is probably not much I can do to stop it. But if I catch it early, I can take responsibility (as an adult should) for my feelings, and take steps to de-escalate what is happening inside of me. I would never think it’s okay for my kids to yell at me, and they are just kids! Why would I ever think that it would be okay for me, an adult who is bigger, older, and more mature than they are to yell at them? The answer is: it’s just not.
- You do not have the right to be mean to your kids. Well, okay I guess you have the RIGHT to, but it’s not healthy. As parents we yell for a number of reasons, but if we are brutally honest, the truth is that it feels good. In that moment, we get an incredible emotional release. But we get it at the expense of our children’s hearts. Kids don’t have the kind of emotional boundaries that we (should) have as adults. They are unable to separate our temper tantrum (because that’s really what it is) from who they are as people. When you yell, you do damage to their hearts. As the adult, it is your job to fix that. It is not their job to listen better (although that is something you can work on them with). It is your job to control your anger.
- It is possible to use affirming words and effectively discipline your kids. Sometimes I think parents worry about being “too soft” and that is they don’t “lay down the law” their kids will grow up to be spoiled brats. One of my favorite quotes from an organization I love called Connected Families, “Parents want obedience. But for obedience to be sincere, it must grow out of the earnestly tilled soil of trust. So be careful when you want obedience, that you seek it from a position of trust, not a position of intimidation or fear. Otherwise what you get is not true obedience, but compliance.”
- You’re not alone. There are millions are parents right where you are. They are exhausted, they are overwhelmed, they love their children so fiercely that sometimes they can’t handle it. And they struggle in those moments of utter frustration to not unload on their kids. If this is something you are struggling with, be encouraged! There is hope! I used to lose it on my kids much more than I would like to admit. I was good at repair afterwards, but it shouldn’t have been happening in the first place. I have been taking steps over the past two years to correct that, and it is working. Here are just a few of the things I’ve done:
- Tell someone – this was honestly an awful experience, but I admitted to my entire church congregation on a pastor’s wives Mother’s Day panel that I didn’t like how much I was yelling at my kids. Not only did I have so many moms come up to be afterward thanking me for my honesty, but it flipped some sort of switch in me. Since that day the amount of yelling has decreased by at least 90% (once again, I am making that number up. I like to do that. You’ll learn.) When we confess our sins (which that’s what yelling at your kids is), not only is God faithful and just to forgive our sins (1 John 1:9), but that sin loses some of it’s hold on us too.
- I got my hormones checked. This would not seem like a normal thing to do if you are struggling to control your temper around your kids, but I truly believe this was contributing to the problem. I went to a Naturopath who found some pretty big hormonal issues in my blood work. Working with her to level those out has been a life changer for me, and my whole family.
- I started following Connected Families on Facebook. This was probably the simplest step I took, but had one of the most profound impacts. The advice this organization puts out on their Facebook page encourages, and challenges me as a parent in the best possible way.
You have the power to bless your children with a core of self-worth that can help them succeed in their relationships, in their careers, and even help them better understand and connect with the heart of God.
I am so excited to share in just a couple of weeks a really practical way you can turn the ship of how you talk to your kids. I am on week two of this online parenting course, and am learning so much about how to effectively correct, and discipline my kids while still protecting their hearts. I can’t wait to be able to open it up to all of you! If you haven’t already signed up for my email list, you can make sure you don’t miss this exciting opportunity by going to the sidebar at the top of the page, and clicking the link to sign up. You will get one email a week from me with a link to that week’s post as well as exclusive opportunities that will be coming in the future like free eBooks, and this amazing class I’ve been talking about the past couple of weeks.
So decide today, what is one thing you are going to do this week to speak life to your children? It is a blessing they will carry with them always.