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Words with Wisdom – To Make or Break your Child’s Spirit (Part 2)

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Last month, we looked at the importance of choosing our words and the manner in which we say them, when we speak to our children.  We focused on the ‘What’ – using descriptive phrases, and regulating ourselves using the STAR method.  See this link for a recap – Words with Wisdom – To Make or Break your Child’s Spirit (Part 1) – Family Central (family-central.sg)

This month, let’s look at the ‘How’ part of speaking to our children.

“How” Part – how do we say them?

When delivering our messages to our children, the following are some suggestions for consideration.

  • Getting their attention. Eye contact and proximity are critical considerations. Go near them, and call their names gently and calmly. Speak only when you make eye contact. Avoid raising your voice or shouting from a distance. It tends to make you sound harsh and angry, which, in turn, will likely lead children to imitate similar behaviour.

  • Be Calm. Be friendly and warm as much as you can. Staying calm and composed is important. When correcting misbehaviours, we may show our firmness, but speaking or maintaining a look of disapproval or anger is not necessary.

  • Be clear. Use short sentences and pause to give the child space to ask questions or respond. Ensure the child has understood your statements before moving on.

  • Age-appropriateness. The child’s age will determine how much content to give at once. It will also determine how words are delivered. For example,

– For children below 6, use real objects or pictures instead of relying on words. You may have to teach new vocabulary in certain situations, such as new emotion words, so that the child can associate with and understand your message. Using dramatic expressions as we speak also helps catch their attention rather than speaking plainly as if speaking to another adult.

– For older children, avoid rattling on but speak in bite-size pieces. Make room for them to digest what has been said. Avoid giving lectures, especially to teenagers. If possible, avoid being too directive. Be present and listen with your heart, not just your head.

  • Be respectful. As their seniors and authoritative figures, and as much as we expect respect from our children, we should exemplify the ideals of respect in our daily interactions with them. Speak and treat them respectfully, so they learn how to respect us in return.

The above are just some considerations to ponder about the words we say to our children, which are not exhaustive. Besides these, perhaps, a final suggestion would be, while growing to be mindful of how we talk to our children, parents can learn to enjoy their conversations with them, and make time to practise that! How to speak to them such that they want to have conversations with us will always be a learning journey for all parents.

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11)


Written by: Lily Ching, Parent Coach, Fei Yue Community Services


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