Do you remember the most recent conversation you had with your child? What words did you choose to convey your thoughts? What were the emotions evoked in your child? And what was the outcome of that interaction? Often, we get caught up in the hectic pace of life, and our words are more orders than encouragement, and our tone can get tense and curt. Undeniably, this has an effect on our children.
As parents, our words are powerful. They leave an indelible mark on our children; while we might forget the conversations we have had with them as we get busy with adult responsibilities, our words sometimes, linger on in the memories of our children and are carried on into their lives as an adult, impacting how they perceive themselves and the world around them. For example, a young adult who has poor body image may have faced regular critical comments from their parents about their weight and appearance. Another, who is a perfectionist and displays highly self-critical behaviour may have endured constant criticisms about not meeting certain standards in their growing up years.
Conversely, using words of affirmation can have a long-lasting positive impact on your child. A child who’s regularly affirmed and encouraged, is likely to have greater self-awareness, confidence and resilience, and build positive healthy relationships with others. They are also more likely to practice positive-self talk and keep a healthy perspective when weathering the challenges that are part and parcel of adult life.
Over the course of this week, observe the way you speak to your children. Do you find yourself using more positive or negative words and phrases? How do you handle a situation when your child has fallen short of the standards you set? Do your comments focus mainly on the academic area of your child’s life? Once you understand where the gaps are, you can begin to change the quality of your parent-child conversations. Use words of affirmation and praise when your child has shown good effort. By this, they will know that you see and value what they have done. Perhaps your child has a personal passion in a specific area such as sport, art or music. Affirm their hard work and talent when they showcase it to you – a parent’s praise is priceless!
Even in discipline, it is possible to be consistent and firm, and still extend grace to your child who needs it. This doesn’t mean you should be a permissive push-over – that certainly won’t help your child either. Take the time to discipline your child rather than just handing out punishments; this requires a conversation about their wrong-doing, and how they can set it right, and listening to their thoughts on the situation – you can practice even with a young child who understands right from wrong. As a bonus, your child will likely internalise this process and practice it on their own as they get older.
Often, poor parent-child communication indicates a bigger and more long-standing problem in the lives of the parents – a chronic lack of self-care. Here, the analogy of securing your own oxygen mask in an airplane, before tending to your child, holds true. Make the time and find healthy ways to cope with the stresses you are under, rather than pushing them aside. When you are relaxed and have a healthy perspective, you are more likely practice affirming your child on a regular basis, rather than reacting to them with anxiety and even anger.
The great news is that it is never too late to start a family culture based on affirmation and encouragement. Take small steps today, by using positive words with your child and yourself!
Copyright © 2016. Focus on the Family Singapore Ltd.
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