May Theme: Getting Right What We Say!

Week 1: “You” Messages

This month we’re taking some time to think about some of the things that ‘Big People’ say.
The reality is, that what we say to our children has a long and lasting impact, well into their
future. Every honest parent can confess to a moment of hearing something come out of our
mouths, directed at our child, that really should have been left unsaid. It’s so easy for our
words to slip out! A child’s mind is full of questions, perhaps the greatest of which is “Who
am I?”, “What kind of person am I?”, “Where do I fit in?” Our Little Ones answer these
questions from the things they hear and experience. Whether the message is “You are so
clumsy” or “You’re a great listener”, these statements from important ‘Big People’ will go
deeply and firmly into a child’s unconsciousness. Let’s make sure that we are sending our
gorgeous Little People the right “You” messages. Messages about skills and abilities are
good, but messages that affirm their character and their innate value will go right to their
heart, answering their big question. Your child will be able to say with confidence “I am…”
What are some quality ‘You’ messages you can send your child? How about starting with
some of these: generous, loving, kind, strong, brave, courageous, helpful, hopeful,
trustworthy, joyful….

Week 2: Be Honest

What we say has a lasting impact on our children. If we’re honest, we can probably think of
a time when we’ve tried to push aside our feelings and say the bright, positive words we
think our children want to hear. Children pick up on far more than our words. They are busy
reading ALL the signals we are sending. Don’t pretend to be happy or loving when you aren’t
feeling that way. It’s confusing for our children when our words don’t match what they are
experiencing. We can be honest about our feelings without upsetting or putting our children
down. They can handle “I’m really tired today”, or “Right now I’m feeling angry…, especially
if this matches what they have sensed all along. It’s good for our children to realise that we
are human too! Labelling our emotions is also important as it teaches them the vocabulary
that is important for their own self-regulation. This week when you are tempted to plaster
on a smile or lash out with angry words, take a breath and calmly tell your child how you
REALLY feel.

Week 3: Tell it like it is

Children can handle the truth. In fact, they crave the security of knowing that the important
‘Big People’ in their lives can be trusted to be honest. Sometimes in moments of frustration
we may say something wildly untrue such as “If you don’t stop that, the policeman will
come to get you” or “You’re so naughty! Nan and pop won’t want to visit you anymore!”. Our children take us at
our word. As they move through the world they test our credibility about what they hear
and experience from others. In times of frustration, instead of arguing or threatening, it’s ok
to put our foot down and say, “Because I say so”. There is never anything to be gained from
using scare tactics and threats. When our children encounter dishonesty later in life, they
will at least know that some ‘Big People’ are trustworthy and safe to be around. Let’s lead
our Little Ones with truth and love, and leave the scare tactics behind.

Week 4: Replenish Your Resources

This month we have been focusing on the impact that our spoken words have on our Little
Ones. We’ve talked about sending the right ‘You’ messages, being honest about our
feelings, and leaving out the scare tactics. Getting it ‘right’ is a challenge for all parents, and
it is easy to be overwhelmed by feelings of regret and guilt. Tension can become the norm.
Let’s finish the month by thinking about the importance of dealing with tension. When we
are stressed it is easier to take out our frustration and anger on our partners and children,
saying things we really know we shouldn’t. It’s hard to stop the words slipping out. We need
to pause for a moment and ask ourselves “Who am I really angry with?”, “Why am I feeling
so uptight?”. The relief of verbally lashing out is always short-lived. Managing our stress is
so important for managing our relationships. We need to tackle our tension to improve our
communication. How can you fit something that refreshes and relaxes you into your
routine?

Written by Alison,

Principal Speech Pathologist

Newcastle Speech Pathology