How we speak to our children is how they’ll learn to speak, both to others and themselves. While being conscious of what we say and even how we say it is difficult for all adults, it’s well worth the effort as a parent. Not only does this communication create a strong foundation for a relationship that healthily extends beyond childhood, but it also fortifies our day-to-day experience, creating a more positive way of life for everyone under our roof.
By taking the time to help our children learn to communicate effectively, which mainly involves being conscious and aware of our own patterns, we set them up for a lifetime of success. While we can, of course, be a mirror for our children, giving them feedback about how they are communicating and the effects of what they are saying, it’s just as important (if not even more so) to give them the tools they need to self-reflect.
These tools, while seemingly simple, are rarely used in families. (Even though parents can and would definitely benefit from them just as much as their children!) Too busy or too distracted, most families take communication for granted, saying what they feel needs to be said when it’s said. Unfortunately, this leads to a lot of reactive communication and, more often than not, hurt feelings and unattended emotions that spiral out of control.
Taking time each day to, as a parent, reflect on how we’re communicating to our family will help us teach these reflective skills to our children. And, as everyone learns, communication and relationships will dramatically improve.
Here are three easy and effective tools for reflecting about how we’re speaking to our children…
1. Journal: Having a journaling practice as a parent is an incredible tool for reflecting on our day-to-day interactions with our children. Not only does a journal give us the freedom to write about how we’re feeling and the events of the day, but it gives us the ability to look back and to really reflect, without the haze of time or emotions getting in the way. Creating time for us to journal a few times each day, even if it’s just for a few minutes, will help us connect the dots between what we’ve said and how we’re feeling. It will also give us the ability to reflect about how our communication impacts the rest of our family, specifically our children.
2. Interview: Our children notice more than we think. They’re also much more emotionally intelligent than we probably give them credit for. That’s why sitting down with them and “interviewing” them is such a powerful tool. When we sit down with our children, ask them about how we’re doing as a parent. Specifically, ask them about how they know they’re loved and what we can do to improve. Most parents are surprised by just how much their kids remember, especially when it comes to things they’ve said. Allowing our children to reflect our style of communication back to us is an eye-opening exercise that should be done regularly, but only when both parties are calm and relaxed.
3. Recognize Patterns: It’s easy for the human mind to slip into old habits and patterns, which is why we often find ourselves saying something without even thinking. Knowing what our patterns are and recognizing them when they show up is a great way to start becoming more aware of what we’re saying to our children. If left unchecked, these communication patterns can erode relationships, only to be repeated by our own children later on down the road.