I’ve been thinking this morning about some of the tips & tricks of parenting that were modeled & taught to me the years before I became a parent. I’m no expert on parenting, obviously, being at the beginning of my journey. But I appreciate those who’ve shared their stories of trials, failures & triumphs with me. I try to think of the bigger picture and life principles as I build into my family. I’m surely not always good at that. But hey, what else can you do as a parent than put your best foot forward?
My mom (one of my many role-models) is in her 70s and, boy, does she have some pearls of wisdom (raised three boys and a girl, how could she not!). She’s one of those that’s made herself a student of life, and when we were kids she made herself a student of early childhood development. In my opinion, that’s a subject she’s well-versed in and can share a good deal of wisdom about. Something simple she taught me concerning communication with kids was “tone of voice” and “positive phrasing.”
I hear myself say to Everley, “Leave that be” with a respectful tone instead of shouting “Stop that!” Would I rather shout than speak calmly?? Of course I would. I’m a sinner. I’m more prone to be rude than I am to be gentle. But I’m starting the trend now while I’ve got one kiddo and while she’s young. That’s something my mom taught me, “Start early: understand who they are during the stages they’re in, speak respectfully to them as you would to anyone else, and give positive commands.”
I think we as parents tend to think that we should talk on our child’s level, because they’re so young. But, actually, they’re persons just like you and me. They don’t have the intellectual capabilities that you and I have as adults, but they are building those skills in their brain as they grow and interact with the world. So, when I’m talking to Everley, I talk to her as I would anyone else- with respect, clarity, kindness, and confidence.
You know how we tack on a question with everything we try to communicate to our kids? “Please don’t do that because you’ll ruin the furniture, okay?” Well, I’ve had to ask myself, “What am I conveying to Everley when I ask ‘okay’ at the end of the statement? Am I giving her a command or am I asking her a question? Does she need to understand the statement or does she need to give me an answer?” Hmmmm, makes you think, doesn’t it? Have you noticed that this whole paragraph has been questions? Are you tired of it yet? Do you think your child gets tired of all your questions??? 😉
So I try to stick with that mantra for communication- respectful, clear, kind & confident. For instance, I’ll say, “Everley, it’s time for your nappynap. I can see that you’re sleepy. Let’s go upstairs together.” It’s positively phrased, I’m identifying with how she feels, and I’m communicating with my tone that this a non-negotiable situation.
She’s a flexible sort of person, so I’ll not say that her response is clearly linked to my superb parenting. HA! That is not the case. I am just learning as I go and so is she. That’s the nature of life. Her nature, at this stage, seems to be aimiable and pleasant, so when I speak to her she gladly responds. If I have a strong-willed child in my bunch, I’ll write about a whole new collection of skills I’ve had to learn and develop!
That’s the key to being parents, right? Learning & developing. Being a student of life, God, the world, those around us, and wisdom. I’ll never stop learning, and I hope that’ll help build the relationships I have with my kids through the years.