The Mirror of Our Words

- Joellen Monson

We are their mirror to our child's view of themselves and their world. We are their touchstones to how they come to understand this world. They trust us implicitly - if we say something - it is true. Take a moment and think about that - what we say is taken as the absolute truth. We can all be very proud of the knowledge we share with our children when we tell them about math, science or how to spell that difficult word. But what about those times that we're not consciously aware of what we're teach them? How are we reflecting back to our children what we think of them? Imagine if someone secretly tape recorded how you speak to your child throughout your day together. What would it reveal about the messages you send to your child day after day. What do your tone and words reveal about how you really feel about them? Would the message of your love for them be the primary message they receive through each day? Do they hear that you enjoy being with them and are interested in being together?

Children use all their senses to learn. The tone of our voice, our body language, our facial expressions combined with our words give children a complete sense of an experience. Think about the times your child has asked "Are you mad?" or called you on the carpet with "Are you really listening to me?" Everyone has busy days and bad days when the pressures of stressors can really build. Our moods and feelings (positive and negative) are picked up by our children. At this age, they are also inclined to feel overly responsible for causing people to feel certain ways. Depending on the messages they hear again and again, over time may come to feel unworthy of love, that they are "bad" inside or that they can't do anything right - if that is what they hear about themselves.

Whenever we are upset about something our child has done, of course we need to let them know, in very specific ways, which behaviors they've done which we don't approve. But it is even more important that we let them know, just as clearly, that they are not responsible for how we or anyone else feels. Remember to let them know that they are loved even when their behavior is not acceptable. But, if you are finding that hard to do, that you are having too many of stressed out days in a row, then other, self esteem problems can begin to grow. It is crucial for you to take the breaks you need to relieve your tensions. Seek out solutions to letting you recharge your batteries while your children get opportunities to spend time with others. You are worth it and so is your child. One wonderful tool at our disposal is our sense of humor. It is a valuable ally that can get lost during greatest times of stress.

For a refreshing perspective on these issues, consider reading the parenting book "Are We Having Fun Yet? 16 Secrets of Happy Parenting" by Kay Willis and Maryann Bucknum Brinley. Kay Willis is the mother of 10 children and brings a wonderful perspective to the importance of the "job" of motherhood. Her feeling is that if we're not having any fun in this activity (that we spend 25 hours at day doing) then life's not fun for anyone we're around. With easy to read sidebar quotes and short, inspiring chapters, the authors let us know they've been there and survived, with humor in tact. They support the importance of nurturing ourselves, using corporate America as a guideline (15 minute coffee break anyone?) and making sure children know that they truly are loved. So if you're finding the message of love getting lost in the daily grind, do something good ourselves and your children will also benefit.