“Praise is like sunlight to the human spirit: we cannot flower and grow without it” ~ Jess Lair
“Who do you think you are talking to?”
As I said this I cringed inside. This was my mom speaking and I had vowed I would never say that to my children. Growing up I hated being put down and told to shut up. The favorite saying was, “Kids should be seen and not heard.”
Growing up was tough and having a volatile mother meant we had to be pretty cautious about what we said and how we said it. Anything that could be considered disrespectful was dealt with the best way my mom knew how and that invariably meant a good smack across the head.
There were times when my brother and I were having fun and making a noise—we were just two young boys having fun. It was not long before we were told how naughty we were and that we needed to go to our rooms. I remember resisting saying that we were just having fun and receiving a smack across the ear and was sent packing.
The impact this had was to remind me that I do not challenge authority figures, even if I believe I am right or I have a view. In my life today, I have worked my way around that, but it wasn’t too long ago that I was a complete yes man.
I had been put down so many times that I started believing that others were more important than me and that they deserved what they wanted over what I wanted. I had low self esteem and it meant I treated myself as a doormat or I blew up if I felt really attacked.
I did learn a lot about being resilient and making my own way in the world. There were positives to being raised tough. There were also beliefs that were instilled in me that limited me and brought me to this point of realization that I too was limiting my children.
“How you speak to your children becomes their inner voice.” ~ Anonymous
I have raised my girls to be free to express their emotions and voice their view—this is communicated to them continuously and consistently. They do have boundaries and are allowed to voice their view within the boundary of respect.
What I had not accounted for was how strong my conditioning around being cheeky and disrespectful was. If my girls challenge what I am saying or tell me I am being unreasonable, my immediate conditioned reaction is to shut them down. I become angry and controlling.
Last week, I had an incident with my girls. I had given them clear instructions around clearing up after themselves and doing homework; they had other ideas and an hour after I had told them what I expected they were watching TV.
I walked in the room and as soon as I saw what was happening, my inner mother came forward and said, “I will deal with this.” I asked sarcastically what was going on; they both said they had a long day and wanted to relax—that they would do their homework and I must trust them.
All I could see were two girls who disobeyed me and I let rip at them—I had lost emotional control and my conditioning kicked in.
“You two are getting too big for your boots. You never listen. You say you will do things and you don’t. I can’t trust you. Now get into your rooms.”
My one daughter, who is far more challenging said to me, “Dad, you are being unreasonable.” That is when the words came out of my mouth, “Who do you think you are talking to?”
My insights have been profound.
First, I am the one who cannot be trusted—I tell my girls that they can express their view and as soon as they do I put them down and make them wrong. Now, what is worse is that it is having an impact on how they see challenging strong-minded people in their lives.
Second, I am not listening to them or their view and I have lost emotional control. I am reacting and controlling them. They are learning that this is the way you need to behave to get results. What I tell them to do and what I show them how to behave are not congruent and I know which one will have the longer lasting effect.
Lastly, I am disempowering them from being the best girls they can be. I am limiting them from being emotionally powerful to manage any situation in their lives. I am limiting their potential with my own limiting beliefs.
As parents, we are doing this with our children in some form or other every day. I believe we empower or disempower our children one conversation at a time. Every time we communicate with them, we grow or limit them.
We just need to be aware and ensure we have more growth conversations.
Three tips for communicating with your children:
1. Notice when your emotions are taking over and ask yourself one question: “What do I really want for my children here?’ Breathe and adjust accordingly.
2. Spend 10 minutes writing down all the things you remember your parents saying to you. Then put them into a positive and negative list. Write a positive for every negative statement you have.
3. When you have had a limiting conversation, as soon as you calm down, apologise to your child and tell them what you did wrong. Tell them what you do want and how you would like them to deal with situations like this in the future.
We all make mistakes and with a lifetime of negative limiting conditioning driving us, it will happen. It’s what you do next when you are aware of what you have done that will make you children’s experience different.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
~ Maya Angelou
Stephen lives to serve; he genuinely loves people and sees them for the potential they are and not the behaviours they display. His purpose is to connect, share and grow others, by assisting them to become aware of what is holding them back—and then become conscious and intentional about how they want to be in relationship with themselves and their teams.
Stephen also helps businesses get teams on track, creating alliances that have teams work from a place of alignment versus the position of difference. He is a coach and leadership facilitator, working in the space of self-reliance teaching others how to understand who they are and why they behave the way they do.
Stephen shares views and tips on the areas of our lives we struggle with and posts daily inspiration on his Facebook page. The two words he lives by are love and courage. He serves to make a difference in this world one conversation at a time.
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Ed: Wendy Keslick/Bryonie Wise