I’m sure it comes as no big surprise that what we do and say affects our children.
Some psychologists believe it can even play a major role in your child’s inner voice well into adulthood, but do you know the actual science behind it?
When we are children our brain is still developing and has a surplus of synapses at a rate of approximately 15,000 synapses per neuron (2x of an adult brain), which means it’s basically a sponge on steroids.
Elements in the environment that we get exposed to multiple times become reinforced in the brain by way of more neural connections to those things. Since our parents tend to be the most primary element in our lives growing up as children, their voice (how they treat and talk to us) essentially becomes our inner voice.
To put this another way, how they speak to us is how we speak to ourselves.
If they were encouraging, we cheer ourselves on. If they were angry and critical, we are hard on ourselves.
This is important because the way talk to ourselves not only influences our self-esteem but also how we address our mistakes in life and how/if we overcome them.
That’s why it is crucial to be patient with your kids. Always approach them with love first. They are just kids and I can guarantee you they will make mistakes. The number one thing for them to know is that you love and support them even when they fail and fall down.
The easiest mistake to make is the assuming your children know that you love and support them. Again, they are just kids and don’t have the awarenesses and life experience of an adult. The ways mom and dad express love isn’t always obvious to them. This is why it needs to be vocalized and overtly expressed all of the time.
My father was stoic, I had no idea how much he loved me. None whatsoever.
If you speak to them with loving words, your children will grow up to love themselves. That’s the best gift you can give them.
Below are some examples of harmful things not to say…
“Stop your crying right this minute!”
Kids have the right to feel what they’re feeling. Try giving them a hug and asking them why they are upset, become curious.
“What’s so hard about doing [blank]?”
This makes kids feel worthless like they can’t do anything right. Show them how to do something correctly, don’t berate them. Let them know you’re confident that they will do better next time.
“Big boys/girls don’t get scared!”
All of us get scared, even adults. Telling them not to get scared is another example of teaching them that how they feel is wrong, that they don’t have the right to feel what they feel. Instead, ask them why they are scared and remind them that you are always there to support and protect them. They need to feel safe.
“I can’t believe you did that!”
Make your kids take on the full weight of your disappointment is pretty selfish. Most of the time we are just projecting our own insecurities anyway. Educate your child what that they did is wrong and why.
“You’re not [smart/pretty/good] enough!”
Pretty simple, you are teaching your child that they are not good enough. This self-talk most adults have is directly related to how one/both of our parents talked to us.