Your Child’s Inner Voice
I read a quote today by Peggy O’Mara, the woman behind many publications including Mothering Magazine from 1980-2011 and www.mothering.com. It read, “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice”.
This got me thinking. I had just finished nagging my 3 year old to pick up the pieces to the Hungry, Hungry Hippo game before our 13 month old foster baby got a hold of the marbles. I certainly did not ask him to do it in the most gentle way possible, using words of encouragement. Yes, of course, this was the third time I had asked him this morning and I had put it on higher and higher shelves each day this week, in hopes that it would become a ‘supervised play only’ type of game. Still, using the tone I did with him and then reading this quote certainly didn’t make me feel like mom of the year.
Feeling defeated and overall terrible, I did what I do best: problem solve. What could I do to ensure that my kid’s inner voice sounded nothing like the way I had just spoken to my 3 year old? Below is what I have come up with.
Try to increase your awareness
Since reading this quote, I can’t get it out of my mind. This is probably a good thing.
Plan ahead for situations you normally have difficulty keeping calm
As I said earlier, the hippo game has ended up spread all over the floor each day, like clockwork. Tomorrow, I will try to explain to my son why it is important that he tells mom that he would like to play with it and why keeping the small pieces away from younger siblings is important. Believe me, I know that having a reasonable conversation with a 3 year old is not always easy, but I will try. Replay the scenarios in your mind that cause your blood to boil and brainstorm how you could react.
This is something I learned during some workshops I attended for my son with autism. It can be taught in a very detailed and extensive way, but the purpose is simple. Prepare your child for different situations and you will have to spend less time dealing with the aftermath. Spend 95% of the energy before the event, and only 5% dealing with the fallout.
For example, instead of spending 5% of my energy placing the hungry hippo game on a higher shelf today and 95% of the energy frantically cleaning up, taking marbles away from screaming babies, explaining to my 3 year old why he can’t play the game right now and stressing everyone out in the process, I can reverse it. I can spend 95% cleaning it up properly, storing it out of sight, perhaps in my bedroom closet, explaining why we can’t play it all the time and how my son can ask to play it with me during nap time. This should cause the energy expenditure to decrease afterwards. We can play during nap time and then spend 5% of time and energy cleaning it up before the babies get near it and not have my 3 year old devastated about putting it away.
If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all
I know you’ve heard this, but have you really heard this? It doesn’t just apply to kids, but to us parents as well. Yes, we are conscripted to be parents, and not just friends, but this doesn’t mean that everything out of our mouth’s has to begin with ‘don’t’, ‘no’ or in my case, ‘seriously?’. Work on this concept.
Just walk away
Sometimes I need a breather. I am raising 5-6 kids at any given time and they all have a way of pushing buttons. Sometimes I head to the bathroom and hope they don’t notice, or lay on my bed, just for a couple minutes in peace. This usually is during a time where I could loose my cool, or take a break. *be sure all kids are safe before walking away. If this means putting a screaming baby into a crib for 5 minutes, do it.
Talk to your spouse and others around your children about this
After a brief conversation with my husband about this, I overheard him whispering to my oldest son ‘be kind to your brothers’. Yes, my son replied with ‘stop whispering dad’, we trust the message will stick. Raising a child takes a village, make sure your village understands how their words matter.
Most importantly remember, that you are the right mom for your kids
No mother is perfect and you are not expected to be either. We are all a work in progress.
I would love to hear what you think on these points and if you think I am missing any.