Eek. Have you ever had one of those moments when you read something that inspires you and makes your heart sink all at the same time?
That’s what happened to me the other day when I saw this quote on twitter.
The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice
My heart contracted and expanded, seemingly simultaneously, as the full joy and terror of that beautiful statement sunk in. On the one hand, what an awesome opportunity! To be given the privilege and honour of speaking into another human being’s life; to be able to encourage them, build them up and empower them to tackle life’s challenges head on, to have the confidence and fearlessness to become all they were made to be. I think about my girls, the life they have before them and the opportunity that I have to parent them, and my heart literally soars.
And then on the other, what a weight of responsibility we carry. Knowing our words, our tone, our our approval – or lack thereof – has the potential to take root and dwell in a young heart. To be the voice that continues to resonate within them well after the words themselves have taken flight and disappeared, bringing insecurity and smallness where there should be limitless joy. Oh crikey. What a pressure.
Most of the time, I hope I am doing an alright job. I try to be the best parent I can be, and not beat myself over the head too much for the times I mess up. But then – if I am honest – there are those times when the words I know I shouldn’t say do come out; when my patience is not short but non-existent and my tone so much less than kind that I would be embarrassed if another grown up heard it. Times when I am too tired, too stressed, too busy; and it comes out in what I say and how I say it.
Luckily for us, children are resilient little things who need perfect parents less than we think, and a healthy dose of realism is a really OK thing for a family to have in my opinion. Seeing parents mess up, and apologise when they get it wrong, is as good a lesson for them as many others. But that doesn’t stop me trying to be more mindful of Peggy O’Mara’s wise words as I journey through my days. I want my children’s inner voice to be one that speaks encouragement, hope and love into every situation they find themselves in and every decision they have to make – whether that is now, next week or in twenty or thirty years time. And so I need to do all I can to make sure the words that come out of my mouth – even when having to deliver discipline or hard truth – speak those things into them today.
Words are powerful things. And so is the way they are delivered. Today I am choosing to be inspired and not overwhelmed by the opportunity and responsibility before me; to speak truth with grace and put good words into small hearts. And trust that it will build strong characters with good words of their own for the world around them.