It doesn’t feel like they listen. In fact, we have pretty visible evidence that they don’t. We tell them not to do this or that and then we watch them do that exact thing. We warn them, remind them, advise them…and then they come to us crying or complaining or in trouble, having heeded none of that guidance.
So you can be forgiven for missing the fact that not only are they listening to what you say, but that your words have an enormous effect on them. So much so that you have to really, really be careful.
Think about your own life. Are there not things that your parents said that still weigh on you? The way your father would call you lazy. The comments your mother made about food or your weight. The way they would tease you. The things they said about your grades. The tone they used when they were disappointed or angry.
It’s been decades now and we’re still carrying these things—even if we know now that they are sorry, or that they didn’t understand or that they were just trying to help. And if we want to avoid doing the same thing to our children, we need to understand the power that our words hold.
We need to be cognizant of the incredible power imbalance in our households. We are bigger and stronger and older. We control the purse strings. Moreover, they want our approval, our love, to make us proud. They may even think they need to earn these things, or that these things can be taken away if they don’t measure up. All of this means that our words, even our moods, land very heavily on our children, no matter their age.
We must think and act and speak accordingly. We must think and act and speak sensitively.