This past month I've been reflecting on who I am as a mother. I thought about what makes me tick, the bad habits I've developed, and tried to see what I may look like through the eyes of my children.
What I found was some hard and ugly truths I need to face about myself. One thing God revealed to me was how I address my children when I speak to them; whether it's to request, correct, direct, or instruct, my tone rarely has a positive air.
We are all susceptible to these behaviors and in the long run, they will hurt our relationship with our children.
5 Responses That Hurt Our Children
I realize when I need to handle a situation with a child or several children, I am very confrontational about it. I am not yelling, but my tone isn't calm. Sometimes, it heats up whatever fire is already blazing rather than diffusing it.
When we approach our children this way, they learn to approach others this way as well.
When I need to address an issue of sibling disputes or lying or a chore left undone, I often come across accusatory. I may not outright say it in words, but my tone reflects it. Sometimes I call out a child without having all the facts.
Often, even when I am not exhibiting the other 4 harsh tones, I speak tensely. Not that there is any excuse, but I believe this is from all the built up stress and demands of life coming out. Again, it's not my children's fault, so I shouldn't be taking it out on them. But the fact remains, my tone comes across tense more than it does calm.
It happens whether I am addressing my children's actions or answering a question.
When I ask something of my children, sometimes it's in a very demanding tone. Now obviously there has to be some type of firmness in my tone to help my children understand I mean business, but there is a bit of a technique that goes with that and it's not how I've been doing it.
Instead of saying, "Gabriella load the dishwasher!" in that demanding tone, I could say, "Gabriella, I need you toload the dishwasher, please." in a calm tone and even smile, which also conveys this is a normal, everyday habit.
Yes, I even show annoyance all too often for children who have needs. Why? Because sometimes I am just not tuned in to my motherly duties and when my thoughts are interrupted by, "Mommy can I have some milk", I answer annoyingly, "Yeeess".
All of these attitudes have hurt some aspects of my relationship with my children. In addition, it has taught them to use these tones on each other. It's quite frightening (and embarrassing) to see your children pick up your bad behavior and use it on one another.
The facial expressions I put off are often angry, tense, and annoyed as well. So, when I make a conscious effort to relax my tone, my face also relaxes.
Do you remember when you were a child and your mother would yell at you? Did you ever think she was scary? Yea...that's not the image I want my children to remember me by.
I am thankful that God saw fit to point these issues out to me so that I can know how to pray and be intentional about how I speak to them - regardless of what the issue is.
I am not suggesting that we can overcome all of these attitudes, 100% of the time. But when we are mindful of them and their triggers, we can minimize how often we respond rashly or harshly.
How can we counteract this behavior? I wrote 5 Responses That Help Our Children to get you started.
Recommended Resource: A Gentle Answer: a 21-day practical devotional