I'm thinking a lot today about how we speak to people, and even more, how we speak to kids. Now, I'm certainly no saint in this regard—my whole life, I've been told (mostly by my parents) that my tone of voice gives away my true feelings. But I'm working hard especially with my kids to be aware of what I say, why, and how I say it. The book Simplicity Parenting offers a lovely set of guidelines to consider before speaking:
Is it true?
Is it necessary?
Is it kind?
Not everything I say in my children's presence meets all three of these criteria (and certainly not when I'm eye-rolling to a friend about the woman I saw telling her 2.5 year-old to "use your core!" when lifting a heavy toy). But I do try to keep them in mind when I'm speaking to my kids. Why? In my experience, our kids understand everything we say, and internalize the messages we send with our tone and our body language, even if they don't actually know what all the words mean.
Here's the gist of what it means to communicate with your kids (from Janet Lansbury's lovely post explaining the basics of RIE):
Be clear. Be honest. That's what our kids really need.
There's a world of difference between being frustrated and taking out your frustration on your kids. And learning to be kind and clear is hard, especially when you're trying to help your two toddlers brush their teeth and go to bed. Sometimes, you catch yourself turning into the Monster Mommy (you know, growly and cranky), and you have to stop and go in another room and take a breath. Or five breaths. And then you sit down with that toddler and listen, really listen to what he has to say (even if all he has to say is screaming).
Every day is another chance to practice.