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Several years ago, I wrote this post about how our words impact our children in so many ways. Tomorrow, our oldest son turns 17 and not a day has gone by that I don’t keep this in mind. Every word that we speak has the ability to help or hinder our children. It’s up to us to choose to empower, love, guide, and support them with our words.

I wanted to share that post again today…

inner voice


Every morning, it starts over.  We get a chance to shape the lives of our children.   The way that we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.

Think about when your kids make a poor decision… ¬†they spill milk on their homework (when they aren’t supposed to be eating or drinking near it), they break your favorite picture frame (when they shouldn’t be throwing a ball in the house), they don’t clean up their room, they track mud into the house… each thing after you’ve told them time and time¬†again what to do. ¬†

Your first reaction: “Ugh! ¬†I wish you would have listened to me… this would not have happened!”

I get it because I did this, too.

Several years ago, Mickey and I started trying something different.  We looked at the ACTION, not our kids.  Instead of reacting with anger, we reacted with empathy.   I stopped yelling and stopped reprimanding.

Instead, I just gave the consequence with sincere empathy.

Yes, our words resonate with our children.

A little girl sitting in the grass with a text beside her.

                                      (Thanks to my husband for this picture & to Peggy O’Mara for the quote)

Remind your kids that you love them, no matter what they’ve done. 

These four words will change the way you think as a parent… “I Love You And…”

You are telling them you love them even though they have done something you aren’t happy about. ¬†Their actions do not impact your love. Yes, you expect better of them, but it doesn’t change how much you love them.

When our kids do something that I disapprove of, I often start with, “I love you so much. ¬†Your choice today made me really sad, and it wasn’t what I expected from you” ¬† or I will discipline them and talk to them afterward. ¬† I tell our kids every day, “I love you all the time. ¬†I love you when I am happy or sad. ¬†I love you when I am excited or angry. ¬†I love you when you make good choices and bad choices. ¬†I love you when you are home or away” … (the list goes on & on).

Our kids do it, too. ¬†When our son, Ethan, was five years old, he said,¬†“Mom, I’m sorry that I wasn’t nice to you¬†today at lunch. I was mad because I wanted peanut butter and jelly. ¬†I love you¬†all the time, even when I’m mad at you.”

That’s loving unconditionally.

summer 7

You can’t take it back.

I was a teacher, and one time I had a conference with a student and his family. ¬†When I told his parents about his declining reading score, he looked right at his son and said, “Do you even try?” and looked back at me and said, “Sometimes, he can be so dumb.”

I was dumbfounded.  

What on earth is going on here?! I used that opportunity to build up the child and explain his many strengths.
The point is that you can’t take it back. ¬†You can’t take back words like “lazy,” “dumb,” “thoughtless,” or “mean” ¬†– once they are out there, they stay out there. Your kids continue to hear these words in their heads.

Instead of saying,¬†“You are so lazy.¬†Get up and help me!” Try saying, “You work so hard. Can you give me a hand? ¬†It will get done so much faster.” ¬† I can (almost) guarantee that it will work 100% better than going the negative route. ¬† Instead of tearing them down, you are building them up and achieving the same end result: they are helping you.

boating 5

Today, use your words to help your kids.  If you are looking for more on the subject, check out the course Parenting Manual 101.

** If you liked this post, I want to encourage you to sign up for¬†my FREE e-mail series about one-on-one time. ¬†I will send you tips, ideas & encouragement in my free e-mail course. ¬†No strings attached… I want to help you find that relationship with your child that you both deserve.¬†‚ô•. You can sign up here.¬†

I’ll send you this calendar, too.

A close up of a calendar on a white background.

 

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Hi there!

I’m Becky, a former elementary school teacher turned certified child development therapist and blogger. I work at home with my husband and together we are raising (and partially homeschooling) our four children in the Carolinas. I love diet coke, ice cream, and spending time with my family.

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50 Comments

  1. My four girls are ages one to five…I’m sinking in the quicksand of frustration. My heart is breaking, knowing that my awful words, looks, tone are becoming their inner voice. I want my beautiful, talented, spirited girls inner voices to scream from the mountain tops: I am smart, I am beautiful, I will rock all of my adventures; nothing can slow me down! I want them to be courageous and kind. I want them to find themselves in the service of others.

  2. Thank you so much for this post! I question my parenting skills everyday…this post is definitely an eye opener. I have never insulted my children; but I have yelled and have probably expected too much from my little ones. However,I also tell them how much they are loved often. I will be putting your advise to use immediately. Thank you for this…you aré brilliant! I will also sign up for emails and look forward to learning more. Want I want most for my children is for them to know that they are loved, that they feel
    safe, that we will always be there for them and them to grow into independent, caring members of society. I am positive your blog will help us on this journey ?

  3. You are so right, and my heart has been stricken by the realization that even when I didn’t mean to be cruel, I have been. I was raised very strictly and my parents were often abusive, though to this day they still insist that some of it was proper parenting as passed down by their parents. Knowing that I came from a cycle of abuse I have tried to be so careful not to do the same, but when I am angry words just fly out, words that I know should not be said (nothing as bad as “you’re dumb,” thank goodness, but bad enough). Partially due to genetics and partially due to my childhood I suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, severe chronic depression, and bipolar disorder. I do not want my sweet girl to grow up to be like me, her life forever blighted by mental illness because of something I did wrong. So thank you for this post. I have shared it with my husband and we will start trying to use loving words that build up instead of words that tear down. Reading it like that, it just sounds so common-sense, and yet for so many of us, it’s not the obvious choice that it should be. God help us all!

  4. Excellent read up……Every parent has a responsibility to make their lovely kids into a loving and kind adult. Parents are the first teacher, I realised this when my 2 year girl shouted on me back – the lesson I learned from that one small incidence was that toddlers do exactly what we elders do. From that day – I never shouted on her and it worked. I agree that there is always a better way to teach them. Thanks for reminding me this again because with my son now u needed to be more patient

  5. I know this is one specific area where God is wanting me to change. I have learnt that we should also ask our children forgiveness for specific times where we were verbally abusive or cruel or unkind. If we dont do this they will be adults with so much baggage and only establish the source much later in their lives. To set up an evening of washing our childrens feet, repenting and asking their forgiveness will bring restoration. Last year during our Church fasting I attempted to being the Holy Spirit to my family. This year I am praying thatcthe Holy Spirit will change me into the wife and mom he wants me to be. Thank you for this post. I do enjoy your choice of posts.

  6. Hey Becky thanks for this article… It’s so easy to get away with scolding as a vent on what the kids aren’t doing right. In the end, we lose sight of the bigger picture of our kids being loved instead of wanting things to be right. BTW for the book you recommended, I clicked the link and it’s empty. Can you advise what is the book title and author? Thanks

  7. If you are going to equip children for life as adults then it is important to be honest or they will not be able to develop the skills they need to deal with the world’s harsh realities. It is important to be kind, and reassure your children that you love them, but you must also be honest with them as well. Spilling milk, don’t over-react certainly, but remind them that you tried to prevent it and that listening to you is usually a good idea. Training them into thinking about the consequences of the little things may set them up to think about the consequences of more important things. People of all ages are human, and get frustrated with each other, and sometimes say the wrong thing, but ardent overpraise where it hasn’t been warranted, and which therefore devalues genuine praise where it has, will just infantilize our children as adults. Getting the balance right is the holy grail for sure.

  8. I found this today after having a tough parenting day. My wife received a text asking if her boy ever did anything to my son to make him want to pick on him and that he came home crying. We had noticed a change in our son the past few weeks, he is very fortunate and talented and through all his little undefeated seasons and all star nominations we get caught up and haven’t had much opportunity to teach learning from mistakes and having humble confidence. I called him an idiot an I thought his eyes were going to bulge out of his head. He’s a good kid and I just want to do right by him.

  9. The statement your reaction becomes their inner voice is so challenging. I get so stressed sometimes but I want to raise children who are aware of good and bad choices and not let bad behaviour define them. Their behaviour changes and it’s not who they are. Found this so inspiring thankyou.

  10. I loved your article and I’m very interested on your thoughts and ideas for one on one time

  11. Becky,
    I appreciate this article. As a psychologist, I have written extensively about the importance of thinking about discipline as a combination of punishments AND reinforcements, heavy on the reinforcement side. If we want our children to be confident, bold and self-assured, then they need someone they trust to tell them that they are fabulous, powerful people who ought to feel that way. Thank you for your work!

  12. This is so important to remember, especially when kids are going through a rough patch of the day, generally evening in our house.