One day I stopped to get a cup of coffee before taking my daughter to the dentist. When I returned to the car with the coffee, I gave it to my daughter to hold. As we were driving along, I noticed that she was holding the cup at a slant. Immediately I said, “You’re spilling my coffee!” What I didn’t add but certainly implied by my tone of voice was, “You dummy.”
She looked at me wide-eyed and said faintly, “Oh, I’m sorry.”
Perhaps it was hearing my own tone of voice or perhaps it was her childlike apology, but something certainly caused me to rethink how I had talked to my daughter. I know if it had been a friend and not my daughter, I would have smiled and said in a friendly tone, “The coffee.” But because it was my daughter, I gave myself permission to be irritated and critical.
On the other hand, I often say to my children, “Don’t be sarcastic;” “That sounds critical, say it again;” and, “Change your tone of voice.” I’m determined that my children should be polite and respectful regardless of whether they are talking to me or to one another.
When I do therapy, I continually tell people to take out the sarcasm and putdowns in their voices, for I know what distance a nasty tone of voice can create between a husband and wife or a parent and child.
Here are a few comments you might make from time to time. Read them over and think how you might sound.
“No, you may not have another Popsicle.”
“I want you to clean your room.”
“It’s time to get your bath.”
“I think you’ve watched enough television for the day. It’s time to go outside and play.”
“I’d like you home by 12:30 tonight.”
“Please get your towel and wet bathing suit off the sofa.”
“I would like the grass cut before you go play.”
“Whose mess is this on the counter?”
“Who’s got the Scotch tape?”
“It’s time to get off the ipad.”
Parents, listen to yourselves and how you talk with your child.
Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World,” “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide,” and “Thin Becomes You” Doris’ web page: http://www.doriswildhelmering.com.
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