Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Did You Kiss Your Baby With That Mouth?

That mouth on your face... Is that the mouth you used to smile and softly kiss your baby's head the moment you first held him your arms? Is it the same mouth you used to whisper gently into your precious new baby's ear how much you loved him and wanted him and promised to take care of him?

How is that mouth now? Does it still feel gentle and soft and sweet? Or has it become rough and harsh and sour?

Do you have a special tone of voice reserved for talking to your child, now that he's not a baby anymore? One that you would never use with anyone else but your own child? You  probably know the tone I'm talking about. It might be the one your parents used on you.

It's the frustrated tone many parents use for criticizing, commanding, complaining. It sounds like:
"NO! Why would you do that?!"
"Pick that up! You're making a mess!"
"No you can't have that!"
"Stop being such a brat."
"I'm so tired of doing everything for you."
"Shut up!"
"Absolutely Not!"
"I'm going to count to three..."
  • How would you feel if your child talked to you this way?
  • How would you feel if your partner or best friend or even a stranger talked to you this way?
  • How would you feel if your children talked to each other this way?
  • How would you feel if a stranger talked to your child this way?

What does this kind of talk do for warmth in relationships? What does it do for the individuals in those relationships?

Does this kind of talk breed respect or resentment? Love or fear? Peace or discord? Happiness or bitterness? What does a parent who speaks this way hope to accomplish?

Why is it accepted and even expected for parents to speak to their children this way? Listen to the way you speak to your children. What is your mouth doing for your relationship?

There are many problems with talking to your children this way. Not the least of which is figuring out when and how to stop doing so. Parents who talk to their kids this way for the first 18-ish years of the relationship may have a hard time "snapping out of it" when the kids are grown up. And when your children grow up and have a choice of whether or not to listen to you, they may just choose not to put up with this kind of talk and treatment.

You have a choice right now. You can choose to be gentle and soft and sweet. You can choose to talk to your kids now the way you want to talk to them forever.

Want to change but now sure how to begin? Read this follow-up post for some suggestions: Ten Steps To Kinder, Gentler Parenting