We want our children to develop their own happy voices in the world, to know that their thoughts and feelings matter, that they have ideas worth listening to, ideas to contribute. People confident in their own voice are people listened to and, assuming that quality information issues forth, are also ones that are looked up to and followed. As parents, we have a HUGE effect upon this voice in each of our children. Our influence begins the moment our babies enter this world, but as early as 4 months old, our actions need to be even more purposeful and consistent. As they actually start to verbalize their own gurgles, coos, and laughs and then onward to words, phrases and sentences, parents can give a wonderful gift to their children by maintaining eye contact, positive verbal and visual reinforcement and allowing them the opportunity to speak up in the appropriate situations (even when they do not want to!).
If a person is maintaining eye contact with me as I express my thoughts, numerous elements are reinforced. First, my speech must have some value because this person is paying attention! Second, I feel more amicable with this person, and a stronger rapport develops because he shows interest in me. Third, my confidence increases, giving me a bank of courage to draw from the next opportunity I have for conversation. This all makes sense, right?
So now, think about it! Our parents should be our BEST audience EVER. BUT if THEY are not making eye contact with me as I speak, what then? If these two people, of all the people in the whole wide world, don’t find me interesting enough to pay attention to, then who the heck would? To my way of thinking, NO ONE, so the conclusion could be to STOP talking or to KEEP talking and be obnoxious. This same train of thought can be seen if we ignore the last two elements (positive verbal and visual reinforcement) as well.
Nodding our heads in agreement, leaning forward, smiling, giving short utterances of interest or agreement, are some of the visual and verbal reinforcements we give to people when attending in conversation. Our children deserve the same encouragement as they strive to communicate with us. We must watch ourselves, shouldn’t we? Because we’re human, our impatience to get on with our to-do lists, to make it to the next appointment or to work, can really bog us down and so, without realizing it, we’re FROWNING at our children, as they try to speak with us about a topic of their concern and interest. Now, of course, we can’t constantly give devoted attention 24/7, but we CAN communicate that we ARE interested in what they have to say, but that it will have to happen at another specific time because NOW, “Mom has to get to work.” 😊 And this is another CRITICAL lesson, “The World Does NOT revolve around them ALL of the time.”
Parenting is a strategic endeavor, but believe me, it is WORTH the thought, trouble and effort all making for strong and confident future adults. Take on the challenge!!