In 2004, I started reading Dr. Phil McGraw’s book Self-Matters it is the first place I heard of and learned about the concept of elf-talk or the inner voice. I love the way he explained it. What I took away from it was the concept of a quietly running tape which urns underneath all the other voices in your life and this voice is the one where people live from. It is based on all the things you heard as a child not only about yourself but about the way life works in general these are the voices primarily of your parents. Therefore, it is what we hear our parents say about us and life that creates the foundations of our inner voice. As a parent coach, this caused me to step back and examine my whole concept of what it means to be an effective parent. I have concluded that effective parents have several things in common when it comes to creating a positive inner voice for themselves first and as a result for their children. I have found this can help even if their children go differing messages early if parents are willing to communicate these inner changes with their kids.
- Examination of own Inner Voice
- Recognition of Values and Self
- Positive Parenting
Authenticity is defined as living a life true to yourself. I believe authenticity is about aligning your life so the following parts of you are congruent.
As I was reading Dr. Phil’s book it began to occur to me I had no real idea what my self-talk was and how it was shaping my life. I began to wonder if other people felt the same way. At the time, I was working with a group of moms and I began to talk with them about what I was reading and how it was affecting my life and I wondered what they thought. It was amazing every woman in the group of 12 shared the same feeling.
Exploring your own self-talk-taking the time to stop and get your mind and surroundings as quiet as possible while thinking about a decision. Finding out what our own inner voice was saying and deciding about whether this is what we wanted for our lives. We began to think about and create a space where we could be open and vulnerable with one another about how do develop our own self-talk. As we did so something interesting started to happen, the kids started to respond differently to how we interacted with them. Upon reflection, we recognized in developing our own connection with our inner voice it causes significant changes in our outer voice as well. This is where I began to realize that authenticity is the true foundation of parenting. I call authenticity living a life based on what I truly believe, and let that be the basis from which I think, say, feel, and act. Bringing my life into congruence. This causes me to be clearer on what I want and what I expect. Living an authentic life is not easy. If you want to learn more about it. I wrote a post for Inspire Me Today which gives a short post on how to start.
Exploring your values and goals-Being authentic is primarily about exploring who you are and what you want in your life. I have created a list of ten questions I ask every client today. You can use them to help you think not only about the values you consider important. But, also why they are important to you.
1. What is the most important thing in your life?
2. What is your biggest dream?
3. Who are the most important people in your life and why?
4. If you could do anything in the world for your work life, what would it be?
5. If you could do anything in your personal life what would it be?
6. What do you spend the most time doing?
7. In one to three sentences write down what you would want people to say about you after you die. Are you living in a way in which people would say that?
8. What are your most important roles in life? Why? (I.e. mother, father, sister, friend)
9. What would you say living a spiritual life is to you?
10. If you could sit down to dinner with three important people in your life dead or alive and have; what three people would you ask> What would you ask them?
These questions get down to the core of your belief system and therefore get to the heart of what your inner voice is saying to you. It was not until I came up with this list and answered the questions myself that I began to really define what my life was about and why. It was this understanding which gave me the courage to strike out on my own and start a nonprofit organization based on effective parenting. I firmly agree with Dr. Phil when he says, “you can’t lead where you haven’t been”. We adults need to know, understand, and adjust our own inner voice to be a positive one before we can ever get our children’s inner voice to be positive. This is because it is our voice which forms the foundation for the future inner voice of our kids. If we are not positive, they will not be either. How we answer the above 10 questions will help to know what you value and why. Once we know this we can then step back and examine how we feel about things and weigh what we think, say, and do based on these insights. Here is how we change our voice.
- Know our values and why we think they are important.
- Based on these values create positive statements to replace the negative ones which may come up.
- When making decisions listen to our inner voice for any negative feedback.
- Speak out loud the new positive statement you have created. (Saying the statement out loud short-circuits the inner voice and instead hardwires the statement over it.)
- Observe the changes in yourself and those around you as you work on re-working your inner voice.
- Words really are the most powerful force of the universe, we can use our own words to change our own inner voice and shape the inner voice of our children.
If you have been reading this blog for any length of time you know it is all about positive parenting. So, I will just give you my take on what it looks like for me. One thing I often tell parents is you are not raising a child you are grooming a person to live in the adult world. The truth is 75% of your relationship with your child will be on an adult to adult level. Therefore, it is important to remember that eventually you want to be close friends with this person you now hold in your arms. While for the first 18 years they need you to be their parent first and not necessarily their friend; they still need to be treated with love and respect. My mother was great at positive parenting she respected us and gave my sister and I real tools to develop positive inner voices. One thing she did is she never let us win at anything if we won it is because we beat her. I remember the first time I beat my mother playing Scrabble I was so excited. My mother was a word smith as a voracious reader and a Liberian she knew words. For me to beat her in a game we started playing to help my sister and I with spelling, it gave me a real sense of pride. She gave me the respect of learning to win and growing as a person to think about strategy and effort in playing the game. Based on this I think positive parenting in my thoughts requires three things.
- A relationship based on mutual respect and love.
- Rules and consequences for the family
- A parent focused on building a strong, deeply committed relationship with their child at every stage of development
Mutual Respect and Love
There are times when we as adults tend to forget that kids are people too. These small beings while in our care and need our protection and love. They are their own separate beings with their own purpose for being on the planet. As those who care for them it is our duty to ensure they are treated with the greatest level of care and respect. Mainly because how wo treat them defines for them how they should be treated. While we call them our children they are only ours for a little while until we launch them out into the world to establish and develop their own way of living and serving. This suggest that as they ae developing it is our duty to help them learn about the world and how to engage. The first thing they need to learn is what it means to be loved and respected. In laying the foundation for a positive inner voice it is these two attributes which lay the first blocks of the foundation to building it.
Rules and Consequences
I firmly believe in family contracts. There are many versions, however the one I promote has a list of rules, rewards and consequences. This family contract works in the following way:
- The parents first decide on the non-negotiables things everyone must abide by no matter what.
- The whole family sits down and talks about the rules, rewards the family or individual gets at the end of the week for following all the rules, and what light, medium, and hard consequences the person must do if the rule is broken.
- The rules, rewards, and consequences are written and hung up on the wall as the family contract.
- Everyone in the family must pay the consequences for not following the rule including Mom and Dad.
I really like this form of training kids to follow the rules. I like it for three reasons. First, it puts more power in the hands of the children. They know what the rule and the consequences are ahead of time. It gives them an understanding about choosing the correct behavior. Secondly, it takes the parent out of the bad guy role. Kids know the rules if they choose to break them the consequences have already been established and the children participated in choosing them. Finally, I like the fact that if Dad breaks the rule he also pays the consequence teaching children that even adults must follow the rules. This form of a family contract supports the development of a positive inner voice as children see they can have control over their own lives and develop a sense of self-control.
As in any relationship building getting to know a person takes spending time, and building a shared history. However, it also takes a good bit of communication. For parents and children this means spending as much time together as possible dong activities which allow for both conversation and building memories. Things like cooking together, going to the zoo, seeing a play or movie and discussing the likes and dislikes of what was portrayed, building a tree or play house in the back yard and discussing the design; it is doing these things together and getting involved which builds an interaction which builds and strengthens relationships. Kids know their parents are the most important adults in their lives it is the fact that parents take the time to not only do things with them but talk with them. It makes them feel valued and important to you which in turn give them a positive inner voice which says; “I Must be important my Mom and Dad think so.” Try these things.
Take at least 15 minutes each day to have some one on one time with each child. Ask an open-ended question which does not require a yes or no answer like-what was the best thing that happened in your day today?
Have you thought of any more rewards you would like us to do as a family?
Is there anything you would like to say to me or talk to me about?
What is one thing I can do this week to help you?
What do you think we could do to make our family life better for everyone?
When you ask these questions listen to the answer. Ask questions to clarify and them give open and honest responses. Talking and relation to one another’s ideas is another way to grow a relationship with our kids. It is what we do and say everyday which is the foundation of building our children’s inner voice. Creating positive memories, thoughts, and experiences in what we say and do is what creates an inner voice which is positive and confident. If you would like more on my thoughts on positive parenting you can read the blog I wrote for Kars4Kids here.
Putting it into Practice
I think you can do several things over the next few weeks which will help you begin to start building a foundation to help your child build a positive inner voice.
2-minute Action Plan
- Click on the link for Self-Matters and order the book.
- Go to your child and give them a hug. Tell them three positive things you like about them and why.
Long-term Action Plan
- Begin to really catch yourself saying negative things. Come up with one positive statement to say instead. (Example: I need to lose weight. Replace with: I need a fit and healthy body.)
- Get a journal and answer the 10 Values questions and get clear on what is important to you and begin to think and talk about it with friends, family, and the kids
- Start spending at least 15 minutes of uninterrupted time with each child. (Read a book, talk, make dinner together, just get alone and communicate us the open-ended questions above.)
The original question of this article was “How do you ensure your child has a positive inner voice?” The answer is first every parent needs to develop their own positive inner voice. Then use the tools they developed to create their own inner voice to help their child do the same. Good Luck, You CAN do this!