The language we use in our house is usually an indication of how comfortable we are with our mission. Are we speaking to our children in a way that will allow them to understand their own desires and encourage the development of inner strengths?
First we have to be aware of the actual phrases and words that we use when speaking with our children. Then we need to be aware of how these words display our attitude and reflection of how we live our lives.
As parents we often want our children to be polite and say things that are considerate. We have this strange understanding that kids should know what to say and we should make sure they say it. We insist they say “thank you” for reasons unknown to them. A lack of empathy is apparent in every instance where we’re demanding instead of teaching. We command they say “I’m sorry” even when they’re too immature to adopt another’s perspective and not able to feel genuine empathy, so there is no genuine apology. It really comes down to a position of power and obedience rather than a proposition of instilling virtue. We want a mimicking parrot as opposed to a child that understands. The best way to teach your child respect and consideration is to make a conscious effort to treat them this way.
The capacity to empathize with your children and listen to what they’re saying will allow interactions where they are comfortable speaking in a genuine manner. If we can begin to speak to our children with empathy we can start to build a foundation that will benefit them their entire life. Empathy is something not easily learned later on in life and if you were raised with the understanding that it’s important how others feel it becomes a natural thought process. If it wasn’t, then you’re likely unaware of the pain you may be causing to your children. This is why it’s important to be aware of the language we use and the influence we have over them.
“To be a parent-leader is not about controlling, but about setting things up such that no control is needed.”Naomi Aldort
A long time ago, I had some ideas of how important my role as a father was to sculpt and influence my children by the language I used in our conversations. Of course I sometimes say the wrong things, but that can be easily reconciled with a simple apology. I often thought about how my interactions with my children would impact their life twenty years in the future and whether or not my grown children would enjoy my company. This led me to become more aware of how I speak to them. Even if done unintentionally, would I want to be around a person who constantly degrades me and minimizes my existence? Of course not. So I made sure my language was not only positive and motivational, but conveyed truth and honesty in line with my values.
I also make sure my language is not misleading. I want to be clear about my preferences and expectations of myself and my family. It is not always about being positive, but to have my kids understand that life is filled with obstacles and we make adjustments to move forward. I want them to know they have the power to push past their fears and pursue what they are passionate about in life. I want to be able to rise above my own challenges in life and find comfort in knowing I have prepared them for adulthood.
I know there may be some doubt, especially from fathers who may already have lost control of their homes and have had to resort to strict or harsh disciplinary measures. This will make your child feel disconnected and have them doubting if they are lovable. Being kind doesn’t mean you have to give the kids rule of the house or you always have to say yes. If you want credibility as a father you should be removing the implication of force to create order. You are showing them that because you’re bigger and stronger they must listen. Speaking and acting this way will consistently create power struggles, especially when your child gets older.
When we are honest and considerate we will earn trust. When you connect with your child they will admire and respect you. If your child knows you are listening to them and they feel they are being heard, then trust will be created. Setting boundaries can be maintained and bad behaviors improved, because you are acting in a way that is beneficial for both of you in the relationship. This is extremely rewarding when trying to solve really difficult problems that may arise with your child.
Being able to have self control is the first standard in creating a better home environment. Learning valuable skills in communication and negotiation will also help with moving from an authoritative or permissive approach and one that is more rewarding from connection. You will certainly have disagreements and the occasional outbursts, but this is no excuse to not be working on becoming a better parent. You will be teaching your child how to handle difficulties in life and that the people who love them will take the time to invest in them.
“Every time you talk to a child you are adding a brick to define the relationship that is being built between the two of you. And each message says something to the child about what you think of him. He gradually builds up a picture of how you perceive him as a person. Talk can be constructive to the child and to the relationship or it can be destructive.”Thomas Gordon
If we want to create emotional health in the relationships with our children, we must learn to speak that language. We need to teach them the importance of boundaries and how important it is in a relationship with having the power to ask for what you want. Intimacy will be created if we allow our children to be vulnerable and feel safe with expressing their needs without being corrected, ignored, or criticized. We should be teaching healthy boundaries from modeling these behaviors in our home and allowing our children to express their preferences openly. If we are unclear about our own personal boundaries this can cause confusion in the relationship with our children. We should be working on improving our lives everyday. Showing our children that life is good and we should be appreciative of the time we have together.
What we all really want is to have a healthy and high nurturance family where we can all feel accepted and are comfortable with being our authentic selves. It doesn’t always mean we get along perfectly, but it creates an environment where we feel accepted enough to genuinely want to be with our children and them wanting to be with us. It lets your children know that when life gets difficult, their father is the one who will help. He is the one who can solve the problem, he can ease the pain, he can find the solution, and he can fight off the bad guys. There is no distortion of who we are, because we speak and act through love. We choose to be peaceful to our children and it will eventually show up in our future relationships with our children.