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Intentional parenting asks us to be conscious of our own behaviors and how they affect those around us. It is common for us to speak in the same way that our parents spoke to us because we learned early on that is how to communicate. Even if we have learned to speak more kindly or gently than our parents, we can mirror the language and tone of our children if we are not mindful. That's your mirror neurons at work! Do these scenes sound familiar?
"Mom, I don't FEEL LIKE cleaning my room right now!"
"Well you WILL clean RIGHT NOW anyway!"
"Hey, get in the car NOW! We are running late!"
"OKAY! I'M COMING! CHILL!"
I've noticed that in my case, when I feel overwhelmed or anxious, my language gets negative. I tend to criticize rather an encourage or speak abruptly and with an irritated tone instead of speaking kindly. I also notice that my kids mirror me when I do that, and that tends to start a pretty ugly cycle which can lead to disconnection. It's important for connection that we bring into focus the language we use with our children. For those children whose primary love language is words of affirmation, speaking critically will be especially difficult for them. The same is true for highly sensitive children.
Areas to be mindful of:
Body Language: What is your body language saying? Do you look away when your child is speaking? Do you roll your eyes at their upsets? Do you cross your arms and legs when they talk to you? Be mindful of the body language you use and focus on the language of approval, appreciation, acceptance, listening, and gentleness.
Tone: We've all heard someone say one thing but clearly mean another just by the tone they use. You can say "that's a pretty drawing" without looking up or sounding the least bit interested. Sharp and irritated tones will be reflected back to you as you convey this is an acceptable way to communicate.
Criticism: Criticizing our children is never useful. Make it a goal to be an encourager, not a criticizer. Even when you need to correct your child, you can encourage instead of criticize. Here are 2 examples.
Critical: Why did you hit your brother? You are so naughty!
Encouraging: I know you didn't mean to hurt your brother. You would never hurt him intentionally. How can you make him feel better?
Negativity: It's generally a good idea to steer clear of "never" and "always" statements. "You never pick up your messes!" "You always leave your towel on the floor!" Ditch the negativity in favor of clear, concise instructions. "Please put your towel in the hamper." "Your room needs cleaned before we leave."
Getting control over the language you use will go a long way in creating the positive, peaceful family you want.