Have you ever said something to your child that you wish you could have taken back?
There is a certain shock when that happens, isn’t there? In one of those shocking moments in my own life, I remember thinking “What in the world just spoke for me? I didn’t mean to say that.”
I have since come to learn that there is no such thing as a conscious human being that would harm another in word or action. If that is true (and it is), then if something comes out of our mouth that is harmful to another, rest assured, it comes from an old, unconscious part of us.
Those unconscious parts of ourselves love to and will speak for us when we aren’t attentive in the moment, and those parts of us are laced with pain. When those unconscious words are spoken and directed at our child, they “land on” a similar shared pain within that child, a shared pain that lives within us all. That is how pain proliferates itself in this world, through our unawareness of it.
There are other less obvious things that we inattentively say to children that are harmful as well. A comment such as “Johnny, you always take a long time to tie your shoes”, becomes a belief in that child that he is slow at doing things. A comment such as “Hurry up, we’re running late”, becomes a belief in a child that there is a need to rush through life.
This includes the flip-side as well. Meaning, continually repeated comments to a child telling them how awesome they are, can create a belief in a very elevated sense of themselves. When that sense of self is challenged because another person doesn’t recognize their “special awesomeness”, then all hell breaks loose. The pain that the child feels when that sense of self isn’t validated, is then “thrown upon” the other person as the cause of that pain when it has nothing to do with the other person at all.
If we want to bring something new into this world for our children and for ourselves, we need to be aware of our words BEFORE THEY ARE SPOKEN because children register our every word literally.
I recently heard a man share a story about his childhood. It was the boy’s 5th birthday. His mom was preparing the batter for his birthday cake. The boy asked his mom “What are you doing?” His mom responded, “I am making YOUR birthday cake”. The guests started arriving, and it then came time to cut and serve the cake. The mom cut the cake and started handing out pieces to the guests. The birthday boy screamed “Wait! No! That’s MY cake! You said it was MY cake!” The child proceeded to throw a fit. There was nothing in that boy that wanted to share the cake with others. He was told it was “HIS” cake.
That example may seem benign, but it really isn’t. That child took “possession” of the cake because of those words, and in that child’s mind, the parent took something of “his” and gave it away without asking. It is a perfect illustration of how children interpret every word as a trusted authority. Sometimes when I look back at raising my own children, I can see how duct-taping my mouth might have been truly beneficial. My children would most likely agree.
If we want something new to be born into this world that so desperately needs it, it is we ourselves that need to be new for our children. We need to be watchful, to be aware of what we wish to communicate in the moment before we communicate it. We must work to not allow the “past” to speak for us. That doesn’t mean we won’t miss the mark time and time again. That’s part of the process.
After all, if we do miss the mark, all we have to do is admit that to our child. The child will then learn from that honesty that nobody is perfect. That in itself can take an immense load off of one’s back.