How You Talk To Children Is Important

How You Talk To Children Is Important

Hands over ears

I came across this great article – Words that Build (or break) a Child’s Spirit – on Toddler Approved’s Facebook page, it’s a really lovely article about unconditional love and encouraging our children. It also reminded me of something that happened to me when I was a girl.

I remember a teacher – Miss Ball – when I was at primary school. I was in my second year of school so I can’t have been more than 5 or 6 years old. But I remember her words distinctly.

I had been playing a game with a boy in class, it had been going on for a couple of days. It was kind of like ‘Had’, but we’d basically try and get each other when the other wasn’t suspecting it. It escalated as things do when you’re children and in one class I walked up and smacked him on the bum.

Of course from the teacher’s perspective I had just walked up to a boy in class and smacked him with no apparent reason. With my grown-up mum head on, it was right that I was reprimamded for this.

I cannot remember the conversation I had with the teacher but I do remember one sentence she said to me: I’ve never liked you Laura Summers.

I wouldn’t be so dramatic as to say it psychologically damaged me. But, coming up to 30 years later I do still remember it clearly. I remember where she was standing when she said it, her big curly 80s perm and giant glasses. I also remember being very upset and I spent the rest of my school year thinking my teacher hated me.

Who knows what was going through her mind, maybe she had just broken up with her boyfriend, maybe she had a cracking headache or some terrible news…

Now switching to the present, I had a conversation with my son a few of weeks back. I was crabby and tired it had taken me ages to get the baby down for her nap and then he started jumping on the bed and shouting. Which is just the sort of thing that would wake her up. I snapped at him something along the lines of – for goodness sake, stop jumping on the bed and will you just be quiet if Aria wakes up I’m going to be really cross with you – or something roughly along those lines.

Then, I looked at his face, it had crumpled and he had put his hands over his ears and he was upset and cross. I took a deep breath and then another. I apologised. I tried a different tactic. Instead I said – we’ve just got your sister to sleep, can you help mummy out and be really clever and be quiet so we don’t wake her? The difference was immediate.

I doubt Miss Ball even remembers me, or her comment. I imagine it was probably a flippant moment born out of frustration at the end of a long week teaching infants. But when I find myself getting grumpy and snappy with my son, I like to remember her and remind myself, (where possible) to try and find a nice way to say things to him. Because the way you talk to children does matter.

These past two weeks have been a real challenge for me, sleep deprivation and exhaustion have dogged me daily. I cannot say I have totally lived up to this promise. But I know that I will keep trying and I also remember to tell my children I love them regularly. As parents we will never be perfect, we will be frustrated and exhausted many, many times. But I hope that I will never be flippantly unkind and I will always try to be positive where I can, to learn and to think if there is a kinder, gentler well to teach and to talk to them.

Perhaps Miss Ball taught me a lot after all?

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21 thoughts on “How You Talk To Children Is Important

  1. I would like to have a word with that Miss Ball she needs a lesson in what’s appropriate and professional for a teacher. Let alone leaving that memory with my little girl

  2. Every parent should read this! And also understand that the positive comments can last a lifetime too. I, too, remember a teacher in my primary school who went to Spain for a holiday – and sent every child in her class an embroidered postcard of a flamenco dancer. I knew that everyone got one, but it meant the world that she sent one to me. My children (now grown up) have told me more than once that they have happy memories of their childhoods even though I remember many times when I got it wrong. I’m glad you were able to say sorry – some adults seem to find this impossible to say to children – but I do remember saying that to my children too; the child who has received a genuine apology is much more capable of offering one where necessary. Whether you are 3 or 93, nothing motivates more effectively than encouragement and acceptance.

    1. I agree and when you’re exhausted it is hard to remember this. And how lovely of your teacher to do that for every child. I need to say sorry to my children as you say in order for them to learn to do so but also that is ok to make mistakes.

  3. I’m so mindful of just this sort of thing and really try to think about how I speak to my sons but sometimes it’s hard isn’ t it! Great post! Shame you remember all this time what your teacher said to you!

    1. Sometimes it’s so hard! I’m not saying I do this all the time, but I do keep trying. Goodness knows what was going through my teacher’s mind!

  4. Great post. I think it’s so important to use appropriate language with our children and try to approach difficult situations and inappropriate behaviour in a calm way. That said, for me, staying calm, behaving like a rational adult and approaching the situation in a calm and thought out manner is one of the hardest things about being a parent and something I challenge myself with daily. Our kids know exactly what buttons to push to get a reaction from us but I try so hard to take a step back, breath, remember they are just little children finding their way and their personality and talk to them in a way that I would want to be spoken to. As with everything in parenting tho I have golden days where I feel I have really accomplished this and seen how it helps, but also I have had days when the children have gone to bed and I sit there feeling horrible about the way I have spoken to them. It’s all just part of the great journey of parent hood and we do our best.

    1. Thanks Holly 🙂 and yes this is exactly how I feel too. Some days I am so frustrated and feel like I have totally failed at this and others I feel pleased with how I have managed to approach things. Often it is related to how much sleep I get too! But as you say it’s the journey of motherhood, we’ll never be perfect, but we do our best.

  5. What a horrible thing to say to a child. I wonder if it affected how you did your studies that year? Horrible. Good for you that you caught what you said to your son, and remedied it, I am going to try and follow your lead. Thanks.

    1. Thanks for stopping by 🙂 I was so young I don’t know if it did affect them. I do know I didn’t tell my mum until years later. Good luck with your son! It’s not always easy.

  6. Great post. It is always important to remind ourselves to speak to our children in a better way, not shouting. I need to improve on this.

    1. Thank you Hayley, I usually think in terms of my children’s age, but you’re right this will only become more poignant as they approach the teenage years.

  7. This is really insightful. People’s words can have such an effect on others without them even realising – this goes for kids & adults. And I find it is (unfortunately) the negative comments that tend to stay with us longer, how sad is that!! x

    1. You’re right it is a shame the negative comments stay with us longer than positive ones. It is sad. We really need to adjust our way of thinking.

  8. Great post! You are so right. Our words mean so much to children. It’s wonderful how your son responded to your positive slant on being quiet. It’s sometimes harder to be positive and encouraging when you’re tired, it is definitely for me! I really enjoyed reading your post. You should forward it onto Miss Ball 😉 Your site looks lovely by the way!!

  9. Very nice post! It is true that we still have to watch how we say things to our kids! Thank you for reminding me! 🙂 And thank you for linking up with #wineandboobs

  10. I think we are all guilty if saying something to our kids that we regret afterwards. We are only human after all. They listen to everything and take it all in. They are amazing at remembering too! I always try to say the right thing and be aware if this when I’m around the children but I’ve also got it wrong at times too. What my kids to know is that I love them, which I constantly tell them!!

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