As parents we are often under a lot of pressure to keep the proverbial plates spinning in the air. Many times, in our efforts to get everything done, we don’t pay enough attention to how we speak to our children. We forget that our words and the tone of our voice have enormous impact. In fact, the words and tone we use will one day turn into the voice inside our child’s head. The question is who do you want to end up being—their inner critic or inner cheerleader?

Our role is to guide them in the right direction in life, equipping them to be responsible adults and contributing citizens. Along the way, children need boundaries and many times a firm ‘no’ is the most appropriate answer. But the more we rant, rave, and become slovenly communicators, the less likely our children will develop the confidence and learn the skills to succeed. The more we pay attention to what we say and how we say it, the better results we will get as will our children.

Imagine yourself recording your interactions and playing back the digital images and sound of your conversations today with your child. How would you feel watching the replay? Would you be a proud parent, or would you cringe at some of the things you said and how you said them. There’s no blame to cast but an increased awareness of the long-term power of our words, tone and accompanying actions goes a long way in growing happier, healthier, and wealthier human beings.

This is easier said than done especially when children are misbehaving. However, as parents if we lose our temper, it speaks more about our lack of coping skills than the child’s resistance to obey. Once we lose our temper and start yelling, our ability to manage the situation is gone as is our child’s respect and any hope of finding a suitable resolution. It takes preparation, patience, and dogged determination to not give into a child’s resistance. Holding the energy of love while firmly making our case and refusing to play the game of brinkmanship can dissipate a child’s resistance and all parties can emerge as winners.

The more we remind ourselves of the role we want to fulfill for our child, either as their inner critic or inner cheerleader, the greater the chance we have of becoming better communicators and parents.

Here are a few helpful tips:

  1. If children are misbehaving, try to see their point of view. Even though we may think their reason isn’t valid, it is to them. We must build rapport and help them see an alternative perspective, and show them how this benefits not just them, but the greater good.
  2. Get eye-to-eye with them and keep the tone and volume of your voice low. No screeching or yelling. Discussing the issue with clarity, confidence, and commitment to finding a mutually beneficial outcome demonstrates your willingness to respect them and find resolution.
  3. When both parties are calm, negotiation becomes easier. Explain why their behaviour is unacceptable and provide positive alternatives. Try not to use bribery or coercion as this teaches them more unacceptable behaviour traits. Be fair, yet firm. And most of all, be patient. Do not leave the scene of an altercation without a clear decision and new action being taken.

How we speak with our children has a profound impact in defining their character and personality. Taking the time to talk with them, rather than at them, may seem tiresome and trivial, but the long-term influence reaches far into their adulthood and into the next generations.