My son is very sensitive, which I love, but it often results with him getting his feelings hurt. He loves to play sports and loves, even more, to play them with a group of people. The other day he was out playing hockey in our driveway and asked several kids from the neighborhood if they wanted to play. Two boys said yes, but that they needed to change their clothes. My son was thrilled. When the boys came out of their houses they were met by some older kids. While they were all talking my son asked if they all wanted to play. The older kids quickly responded, “No, hockey is stupid.” The other two boys who had planned on playing also said the same. As I talked with him about it, he felt rejected. By saying what he loved to do was stupid he felt like they were calling him stupid. When I gave him an encouraging word about who he is as a person, it meant so much to him that he broke down crying.
Your words are loaded with meaning—both explicit and implied. As parents, we often forget that what we say and how we say it are influencing our kids on multiple levels every day. Here are five things that your communication choices teach your children that you need to keep in mind.
1. Who is deserving of respect
If you’re disrespectful to your husband—or even to your kids—in your choice of words and way of speaking, you’re teaching your kids that the listener is not deserving of your respect. Sure, you can say to them in a better moment, “I respect your father,” or “I respect you,” but it’s how you live that out in the stressful moments that will give credibility to that claim, and show your children that it’s possible and necessary for them to show respect to others—including you.
2. What kindness looks like
When you consistently choose to communicate in ways that encourage others and affirm what is positive and good in their lives, your child will learn to do the same. Choosing to compliment what a person does well rather than pointing out their flaws will teach your child that they, too, can show kindness in the way they talk about others and to others.
When you consistently choose to communicate in ways that encourage others and affirm what is positive and good in their lives, your child will learn to do the same.
3. That gossip is—or isn’t—OK
You know that cell phone you have glued to your ear while the kids are in the back seat? Well, just because they can’t hear both ends of the conversation doesn’t mean that they don’t know gossip when they hear it. Be careful about what you repeat at all times, and be especially sensitive to what you say around your kids. Otherwise, your admonitions to avoid gossip when they’re older will be laughable.
4. What’s important in life
Do you spend all day talking about your looks? Your home decor? Your latest workout? What the Joneses bought last week? None of these things are bad, but if your conversation—and your focus—are on these things the majority of the time, it implies that they are the essence of life. If your daily conversation includes references to your relationship with God and striving for things of eternal importance, your children will grow up thinking of those things as everyday priorities, too.
5. How to love others with words
One of the most important things we’re—often unknowingly—teaching our children is how to parent their own kids one day. If you set a tone of truth, positivity, and affirmation in your talks with your little guys, they’ll draw on that to pour the same kind of love into their own little nuggets one day.
Tell us! What was the last encouraging thing you said to your child?