Parenting is one of the most challenging areas of our lives. A parent might be top in their career field, might have been a Grade A student in school and college, and may have breezed through many other areas of their life. But when one becomes a parent, it is never an easy ride!
As a child very quickly develops from being a sweet little baby into a real person – with his/her own personality, opinions, challenges, temperament and desires, us parents are faced with the challenge of accompanying our child on his journey of self development and self discovery, and in doing so we are forced to jump on the bandwagon and develop and discover ourselves too.
Parental Self Discovery
What do I mean by the self development and discovery of the parent? Have you ever had your much needed sweet slumber disturbed in the middle of the night by a child who has wet his bed, has had a bad dream, who needs a drink, who’s pacifier has fallen out?! (And then an hour later by another child….) Have you ever been at your wits end from your 3 year old who is kicking or hitting other kids in the park for no good reason? Have you ever wanted to scream “BE QUIET” (or maybe something a little stronger?!) to the child who is moaning incessantly? Have you ever felt pure rage at the older sibling who is kicking the younger and weaker child? What about the clumsy child who yet again spilled juice all over the freshly cleaned floor? The child who colored all over your wall with permanent marker? The child who comes home from school and decides that you are his punch bag to vent all of his frustrations from the day (after you spent your whole morning preparing him food, doing his laundry, thinking of how to make him happy…etc) Has your child ever disturbed you when you are trying to work? Has she ever taken your expensive phone or laptop and broken it? THE LIST GOES ON AND ON!!
Our children challenge us in multiple areas, pressing our buttons in so many ways. These daily challenges force us to come face to face with the REAL self. Not the perfect person that we want to be nor the near-perfect person we sometimes fool ourselves that we are. Parenting is extremely humbling and is a journey of discovering our insecurities, our deepest needs and our greatest hopes. It requires a tremendous amount of self analysis and self-work, in order to truly see who our children really are – not who we would like them to be – and to expand ourselves beyond what is easy and comfortable and give to our children what they really need.
Speech In Parenting
What has this all got to do with speech?
The vast majority of our interactions with our children from the moment we wake up in the morning to the moment we hit the pillow at night are done through the medium of speech. What we say and of course what we choose not to say constitute a large part of what we call parenting.
As the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation book Positive Word Power says:
“When a diamond polisher approaches a valuable stone to cleave away its impurity, he doesn’t dare attempt the job with a blunt instrument. He marks exactly where the imperfection lies and uses precision tools to ensure that no part of the stone is unnecessarily harmed.
The diamond polisher does what a parent – one who truly appreciates the value of the neshama (soul) entrusted to him – must do when helping his child overcome his imperfections. The words he uses must be precisely aimed at their purpose. If he uses the blunt instruments of condemnation, insult and anger, he destroys a part of what is precious in the child.”
In this section of the Website, we will be exploring the power of speech in the arena of parenting. In any interpersonal relationship, speech has the ability to build or destroy another person. How much more so when dealing with a child who is so impressionable and who’s self -image is defined purely through the eyes of the people around them.
An analogy is given of a teacher who wanted her young students to paint pictures of themselves. To the children she favored she gave bright colors and soft pastels but to the ones she had difficulty relating to she gave dark and dull colors. With those colors they had no choice but to paint dark, bleak pictures of themselves whereas the others painted bright colorful pictures that looked attractive to themselves and to everyone else.
Imagine a 5 year old boy who refuses to pick up his toys and his father calls him a “lazy boy” or an 8 year old girl who doesn’t want to share her treat with her younger sister and her mother asks her “why are you so selfish?” These parents have just added another dull dab of paint to their child’s self portrait.
With every word that we speak to our children, we are providing them with the palette for their self-portrait. A child is a work in progress. Unlike adults who have self esteem that (hopefully) has built up over the years, children only see themselves through the eyes of those around them. As parents we have the greatest impact in determining that self-image. Harsh words and criticism OR words that build, encourage and compliment, will seep right into a child’s developing self-image building their personality and sense of self that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
הלימוד לזכות הילד אלישע בן אילה לרפו’ש