Friday, March 14, 2014

The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice

The campaign to ban the word "bossy" being said to young girls seems to have been going viral in the media in the past few days. I don't really have a stance one way or the other about the word bossy in particular, but I do like the intention behind the campaign. I'm very conscious of the way I speak to my daughter even though shes only 7 months old. I know how much the words you hear from your parents and immediate family can affect your inner voice. Unfortunately I can only really remember the negative things I was told. They've been on repeat in my head since a young age and they affected my sense of self worth greatly.
Being told I was the most selfish bitch they'd ever met by a family member wasn't the greatest self esteem builder. It doesn't help that I also had my grandmother always apologising to other people for my behaviour (when I wasn't even doing anything wrong). When we went to NZ on a holiday tour my grandmother was always apologising to the rest of the tour group for me and my brother because we were the only kids on the tour. We were 14 and 11 and nobody had a problem with us as we weren't doing anything wrong. All I can put it down to is she thought we'd ruined everyone else's holiday by being there because she assumed they wouldn't want children on their holiday. That, or she was just plain embarrassed to be on holidays with us. She still to this day apologises to people for me even being present at certain places. Even as an adult I can't help but get disheartened when she does that, like I'm not good enough.

I'm determined to try my best to ensure my daughter doesn't have a negative inner monologue or low self worth like I did growing up. I try to encourage her and give her positive reinforcement as often as possible. I want her to remember the positive things I've said. That's not to say I don't ever get frustrated with her, but when I do I try to stop and remember shes just a baby before I say anything. She knows what the word no means, but I don't want her to know what the word bitch means. Shes the one thing I've wanted most in my life and I never want her to look back and feel like she was a burden to me or unloved.

Similar to the "bossy" campaign, there's been a lot of talk for the past few years about not using the words pretty or beautiful to little girls, so they don't associate their self worth with their physical appearance. I somewhat agree with this, but I still tell her she's cute all the time. I think cute is a broader term so its not completely related to her appearance. Even though she is beautiful, of course (totally bias).

I also say things like you're so smart or you're so clever when she learns new skills. I think its important to acknowledge all the good things no matter how tiny they may seem. I want to celebrate all her little wins so most of all she realises that I notice her. I don't want her to ever feel invisible like I sometimes did.

I want to make sure she feels seen, heard and loved throughout her childhood.

I always remember the line from The Help - You is kind, you is smart, you is important.


Toni x

35 comments:

  1. I have seen that bossy campaign all over facebook. I don't think bossy girls should all be call leaders as it suggests. I think there's a big difference. I do agree with not focusing on little girl's appearances so much though. I think it stems from being heavily into dancing growing. Great post :)

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    1. To be completely honest I haven't actually watched the whole bossy video, but I've been following all the debate about it in the media. The bossy thing doesn't really interest me as much as the appearance stance does.

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  2. I remember words from my own childhood and voices that still come up every now and again. I do my best to be conscious with language, too... I find myself sounding like my mum far more often than I would like to, but I have to remember to be gentle with myself in those times, too. All we can do is our best.

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    1. I find myself sounding like my mum too often too, but thankfully its just all her random sayings and not the negative stuff.

      Don't be too hard on yourself :)

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  3. Love this post Toni...that's terrible that you had to (and have to) put up with a caregiver apologising for you --- does make you question yourself and in some cases, people question their existence. I see so many clients these days who have been told things by parents and caregivers that stick with them and they do have that internal monologue that invalidates them and continues to tell them they are not good enough. I am hoping to write a post on not good enough.

    Love that you are taking a stance and bringing up your daughter in a way that will help her appreciate herself and feel that she is enough...

    And yeah, funny coincidence that we wrote similar topics! Great minds? :)

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    1. Yep definitely makes you question yourself. It has come up in my sessions with my psychologist along with all the other stuff thats gone on in my life. I swear she wants to write a book about me shes so intrigued by my life story. However we have both determined that I'm extremely well adjusted given my upbringing. Which is a positive.

      And yes - great minds!

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    1. I feel like you just hugged me through my computer :)

      You is awesome yourself!

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    2. Dammit Renee stole my line! ;)

      I was an anxious kid, and like you I'm all too aware that I am the most powerful role model my children have so I try not to let them see the anxiety breaking through too often.

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    3. You've gotta be quick Emma ;)

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  5. imagine what your gran must have going through her mind. if shes apologised for you to others all your life then what was she told or heard that she continues it from so long ago. know what i mean? yeah i catch myself sounding like someone every now and then and try and stop myself. there is a few things that irked me that i make sure i dont do. Good to be concious of it. xx

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    1. Yea from what I know her father (I was 5 when he died) was very strict. She was an only child because he wouldn't let my nan have anymore children. She was also sent to boarding school so as an adult now I can somewhat see why she is so cold.

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  6. Toni,

    Thank you for this post. You are so right that how we were spoken to as children and adolescents sticks with us for the rest of our lives. In an attempt to be kind to her when she was absolutely NOT to me, I will only say that my mother did not filter her words or criticisms to me and that has born in me some trust issues that I now have to fight in order to have a relationship of any kind with anyone.

    Have you ever heard of the Orange Rhino Challenge? She does deals with stuff like this on her blog all the time.

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    1. I know exactly how you feel Sarah x

      I'd never heard of The Orange Rhino Challenge before, but I've bookmarked it to read now. Thanks for letting me know about it!

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  7. I just want to I've you a big hug right now Toni. Thank you for sharing your story, your daughter is lucky to have such a fabulous and loving Mum xx

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  8. I couldn't agree with you more about this topic. If only more parents were more like minded.

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    1. I wish more parents felt the same too. I see the way some kids are spoken to when we're out and I feel so bad for them because I can see it from their perspective.

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  9. I loved The Help and think that that is really the best message. I think your daughter is a very lucky girl to have such a wonderful role model in you! xxx

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    1. I LOVE The Help. Such a good story line and message.

      Thankyou Lucy :)

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  10. Oh, I loved that book! Just read it last month. I can't decide about the bossy thing. I do actually think there's a difference between being bossy and being assertive and all the other more positive terms so I need to think on it a bit more.

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    1. Yea I don't really have a particular stance on the bossy issue either - I just think its good that its bringing the debate about how we talk to our children to the forefront of people's minds.

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  11. Geez it's so hard to keep all these things in mind after a long day and 3 children are going nuts at you, BUT I do make an effort to always praise good behaviour and alternatively say what they DID was naughty, not that THEY are naughty.

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    1. I can totally forsee days where I will be tired and frustrated and this wont be in the forefront of my mind, but as long as I do my best to stick to it for the rest of the time I'm ok with that.

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  12. Beautifully said. I try to be as enthusiastic as possible when my boys achieve something. I also like to ask them, "Who's a clever cookie" and they give me a huge million dollar smile and say, "Me!"

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    1. Its so great seeing the way kids faces light up when they're proud of themselves :)

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  13. This just gave me shivers (as did that clip form'The Help'). So beautifully written and and so very important. I am always tell my kids they are gorgeous and super clever - I can't help it and it makes me feel sad if anyone doesn't do that. x

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    1. I always feel sad when I'm out and there are parents swearing and yelling at their kids.

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  14. You nailed it Toni,
    I often think of this clip while I'm talking to my girl. I still tell her she's pretty, and cute and beautiful, but at the same time I tell her that she's beautiful on the inside which is the most important. I tell her a lot that it doesn't matter how beautiful you are if you're not a nice person and you don't care about hurting peoples feelings. And she does, she's a big bundle of caring empathy but I cant take credit for that - I think it's just her character. It does however leave her vulnerable to other kids who aren't as nice and we're working on that too.
    I'm sorry your Gran was so hard on you - I think sometimes people are just not natural nurturers, like some people aren't good at math, it's so hard on the ones in their care, but its also so sad for them because they're missing out on so much happiness.

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  15. Gee where have I been, I haven't seen this bossy campaign. I do agree though, as an adult now I can recall how much words affected me as a younger person. Although I'm not so sure how I feel about not using the word 'beautiful' with girls...I think there should be more of a focus on the fact that there can be inner beauty and not just looks and that this is what counts.

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  16. I think there are far worse words that should be banned than bossy but I do understand the intent behind the campaign. I think it's great that you are so conscious of this from such a young age with your daughter. I know I sometimes I have to pull myself up when speaking to my own kids - again a remnant of all those negative memories from my own childhood x

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  17. The jury is still out with me with the bossy one .. although I have biys so am not really entitle to an opinion, but I kind of get uncomfortable at the idea of labelling a child anything that could have a negative connotation to it. I am always telling my kids they are fabulous and clever and kind... but then I am always telling the they are noisy and messy too :) x

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  18. With 4 girls, two of them teenagers, "bossy" seems to me to one of the most tamest names that they call each other. Having said that, I am trying to encourage them to know their own minds and to be assertive rather than "bossy", let's see how I go!

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  19. I love that quote and that scene from The Help!!! I totally agree with you and sadly hear and see the effects of negative self talk and negative comments from family members all the time in the lives of children I work with! Wish people were more aware of the harsh effects of it! Sounds like you are doing a wonderful job with your little girl! She's just gorgeous!

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  20. First off I want to say Toni, you sound like a great, conscious parent. Go lady! I too have been on the same mission to speak with respect, compassion, patience and love to my daughter at all times. Empathy, is understanding without evaluation.
    Secondly, I wanted to say that I used to have similar internal monologue in my head from my childhood - but no longer, thanks to EFT & Matrix Reimprinting (Tapping). I highly recommend it. It gives us the tools (especially as parents) to CHOOSE how to react instead of reacting out of habit. Amazing feeling I promise :) So Google EFT. Gary Craig made it free for all to learn www.emofree.com but if you'd like to work deeply, I am a practitioner. Based in London or internationally via Skype. With warmth, Alexia
    alexia@hathorandbast.com

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