What I feel like saying
is not more important
than how what I say
will make someone feel
We have so much power. A word spoken, or not. A kindness extended, or not. A moment taken, or not. If only seen from my own perspective, these are inconsequential, much of the time—just an expression of a fleeting emotion. If considered from the powerful view of someone else’s perspective, that word or kindness or moment can have significant impact.
What I say and how I say it can make a huge difference in someone’s life.
Good or bad.
The day came when I heard an attitude and an inflection and words from one child to another (in my own home) that I did not like coming from my young child’s mouth (or his heart). The worst part of it? I heard myself in those words. Just a note of sarcasm. A hint of dismissal. A bit of superiority and anger. I could, in that arms’ length kind of way, see how the child spoken to felt.
It broke my heart. And it motivated me to consider my own responsibility for how I spoke to others…..and especially, how I spoke to my children. Who are we most likely to mistreat? Those closest to us for whom we have the most responsibility and those we love the most.
I talked to my children and told them that I had realized that sometimes, I might say things in a way that could make them feel uncomfortable. “I love you,” I told them. “And I don’t want to say things that make you feel bad about yourself or make you feel like I don’t love you.”
And, I gave them permission to call me on it. Respectfully. Because I really did want to change and be a mom who spoke kindness and love and acceptance to our children all the time…and because accountability works (If you want to be held accountable, ask your kids to do it).
“If I say something that makes you feel uncomfortable, I want you to say to me, ‘Mom, did you mean to use that voice?’” Further instruction was to speak to me respectfully and not to tell me I was wrong (since I was the mom). I wasn’t asking my kids to correct me or to determine appropriate behavior for their parent. I was simply asking for their help to change a habit I wanted to change.
And help me, they did. I was a pretty quick learner, though. I was motivated by setting a good example for choosing good behavior and had a true desire to be a kind person. Pretty quickly, there was no cause for them to remind me.
Until several months later when one son, after receiving a very well-deserved scolding, asked me if I meant “to use that voice.” “Yes, I did,” I assured him as he was sent off to his room. That was the last reminder I got (or needed).