Does What We Say To Our Children Matter?

Do you feel confident that what you say to your children matters? No, this isn’t a trick question. In fact, it’s probably one of the most common topics parents contact me about, especially parents of pre-teens and teens.
  •  “Why don’t they listen?”
  •  “Do they even hear a word I say?”
  •  “I have told them repeatedly…”
  •  “They did exactly what I TOLD them not to do!”
  •  “We just had this conversation…”
  •  “They were given specific instructions…”
  •  “How many times must I say the same thing?”
  •  “I gave you my answer already.”
If you are like so many other parents out there these not only sound way too familiar but I would bet you could add a few more.The greatest source of frustration for parents is feeling that their children do not listen to them. The common mistake is in assuming that because you voiced your opinion or desire your children should respond appropriately. After all, you "told" them, right?

So the question is this, “Does what I say to my child matter?” And the answer is yes and no! Not what you wanted hear I’m sure.

Children are tuned in to all parts of us that play a role in how and what we communicate. They are keenly aware of our “moods” which reflect our feelings and very sensitive to our attitudes which reflect our thoughts.

The truth is that your words are only a small part of what you offer that impacts your children. And when the words you say do not match your attitude or mood (some refer to this as your vibration) your child will always choose to go with your feeling response or the vibration you send out.

An angry facial expression or a sarcastic tone in your voice will over-ride even the most loving words. Any form of negativity will cause a child to shut down…and the first thing to close will be their ears!

On the other hand, a calm, sincere loving voice delivering a message will draw them in and hold their attention. Remember the highly successful E.F. Hutton commercial?
Additionally, children learn from observing. What they see you do is far easier for them to grasp than what they hear you say. The fact that their ability to comprehend and process information is actually in process and not fully developed forces them to rely on what they see.
For example, parents who yell and scream when they are frustrated or upset will have a very difficult time convincing their children through words that they should not yell when they are upset or angry. It is quite confusing for them to “hear” you tell them not to yell and yet based on what they see, yelling and screaming goes along with frustration and anger.

The same is true when parents are not fully present when their child is sharing something important to them. They can sense they do not have your full attention; they pick up on the fact that you have other things on your mind. You may say “I am listening.” But their intuition tells them otherwise.
The messages you want to convey to your children must include modeling what you want to see in them and being sure your feelings and attitude (vibration) match the words you are using.
When dealing with pre-teens and teenagers having your words match what they see will give you far more credibility in their eyes. Today’s youth has by far grown beyond the “do as I say, not as I do” philosophy. In fact, raising children with this perspective has proven to have an enormous impact on the lack of respect they have for their parent’s opinions.

To effectively communicate with your children you need to be present, show them through your actions and reactions what you want them to know and look at your words as a tool for reinforcement and clarification.
Healthy effective communication is a learned skill. For the most part we communicate the way we saw the significant people in our lives while we were growing up communicate. And almost 100% of the time the misconception that communicating is merely saying what you want to convey is at the root of parent/child conflicts.

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Comment by denny hagel on August 14, 2011 at 9:05pm
Thank you Melanie!
Comment by Melanie McGrath on August 14, 2011 at 4:19pm
I love this! The medium is the message!!

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