“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” –Peggy O’ Mara
Since I read this quote last month, it has been rattling around in my brain. It reminds me that language holds immense power – we can use words to educate, to inspire and to nurture. Or we can inadvertently drag ourselves and our kids down by with harsh judgments and limiting statements. The words we use create the world we experience and the world we give our children.
This quote has made me pay more attention to my words, my pitch and my tone of voice. I notice when I sound frustrated or impatient even though I am speaking in positive terms. I’m sure my kids tune in to those nonverbal signals as well.
I’ve been up at all hours of the night thinking about the words I use to describe my kids and the words they use to talk about themselves. (And that’s only partially because I am an insomniac!) I considered words like: bright, thoughtful, helpful, kind, smart, generous, engaging, funny, curious, creative, strong. I thought about words like good, bad, fast, big girl, baby.
This leads me to my 2013 parenting-related New Year’s resolution:
Each and every day, I will give words of affirmation to each of my children, to highlight their unique qualities and remind them of my love for them. I settled on a format similar to the one used by Aibileen, the African American maid who is a central character in Kathryn Stockett’s book, The Help. You may recall that each day, Aibileen told Mae Mobley, the young white girl she cared for, “You is kind. You is smart. And you is important.” Over time, Mae Mobley learned to repeat those words to herself.
I’ve created customized affirmations for each of my kids in this same structure.
You are ______________, You are ________________, and ______________________.
I’ve spent many hours thinking about what words I most want to give my children and settled on ones that capture their hallmark character traits. I tweaked until I feel like the words will inspire my kids to give their best selves to the world as often as possible. I wanted the words to feel expansive, not confining.
I won’t share the words with you here. Not yet anyway. For some reason they feel intensely personal. They are like secret gifts I am giving my kids – and they lend a special quality to our separations and to our bedtime routine. Making affirmations part of your daily routine is an easy way to create an uplifting habit.
I believe the phrases I created capture something essentially good about each of my kids. They express how much I admire each of them as people. And I hope, someday, my words will become their words. And they will know with unshakeable certainty that they are good, they are loved, and they can make a difference in their own unique ways.