Last week I was strolling around on Facebook checking out what my friends were doing when I found this quote from Peggy O’Mara:
Be careful how you speak to your children, one day it will become their inner voice.
I found this to be true and the concept has nagged at me ever since. I know how my inner voice sounds (exactly like my mom!), and it isn’t always the inner voice that I would want for my children. For me that’s part of the idea that we as parents always want better for our children than what we had in our own childhood experiences. I want better for my kids, but my inner voice is still the same. So how do I reach beyond my experience to build a new and better one for my boys?
We, as parents, are forming the inner voice for our children every day.
The way we speak to our children, as Peggy O’Mara explained, is part of that. When something goes wrong in our lives – whether the kids toys aren’t picked up, the dog pees on the floor, or someone cuts us off on the high way, everything that we do and say is an example to our children. My inner voice is a repetition of what my mom said when I was a child, and unfortunately we didn’t have a very good relationship then, so it’s not all that pretty. Through years of growth, development, and even counseling, our relationship has been vastly improved, and yet I’m still stick with that inner voice that was hers when I was young. I can hear myself reacting to the daily struggles of parenting in the same voice that she did – the same one that caused me so many problems as a child.
I don’t want to hold my children back in an environment of anger.
The worst part of the way my mom would react when I was younger was that I always felt it was full of anger. Looking back, I know that’s not true, but that’s how I as a child processed her reactions, and so that is where I automatically go now with my kids. I don’t want to be that mom. So how do I change my own automatic reactions? By building an environment of love. Yes, I love my children, but they’re still seeing my reactions to being cut off on the high way and the dog peeing on the floor – those reactions are forming their inner voices too.
I change myself to change my children.
The biggest lesson that I have learned as a parent is that it is my own actions and reactions that need to change before my children change. When I become frustrated that my kids aren’t taking good care of their toys, I know the reason is that I haven’t taught them to be good caretakers of property. I let our house get messy and cluttered and I’m not taking good care of my toys. I can’t expect my children to do what I’m not teaching them. In order for me to change my children’s behavior, I must change myself. And so I begin. As I change our home from a cluttered environment where anger is my first response to one of calm and love, I am forming my children’s inner voice – in the best way possible.
It’s an ongoing process.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was my child’s self-esteem or self-confidence. As I build myself into a better (bionic?) me, I’m giving them the best start into their future. When I show them how to take good care of people and property, when I show them that faith, family, health and friends are a priority, these things will become priorities in their lives as well. It’s not going to happen over night, but when they’re ready to move out of the house in 18 years or so, I’ll know that I gave them the best possible beginning. I formed their inner voice with love, compassion, respect, and I will be able to hope that they will show the same to their family and friends – because I showed them how.