When I was growing up, I grew up around really miserable, slightly mean sounding Appalachians. The way I heard people talk, especially when I was really young, was very negative. Even if they didn’t actually feel that negative about the thing they were saying, it just sounded to me like they were always mad.
The way that I internalized that was, I just assumed they were mad at me. It’s really common in the area where I’m from, among more mountain people, there’s just this way of talking that just sounds mean.
When my cousin and my sister and I get together, we talk that way. I’m really good at it, and when we get together we speak it, because it’s like our first language!
I was talking to a friend about this, because we were both kind of raised by these Appalachian savages, and I realized that this way of talking had a huge impact on me. It was basically the script that was going on in my mind all the time and it was really negative.
Not my mom, by the way. My mom provided a different way of talking, but it took me a while to realize the difference.
Now, it’s like slightly comical. It’s kind of the way Tom talks. He always sounds mad, even when he’s not. He talks loud and is kind of harsh because he was also raised by an older Appalachian woman.
I love my roots so much. If you’ve read my book, you know I love my people and I have a lot of respect for them, but I will say that it took me a long time to deprogram myself from this negative talk.
I think I had enough of an awareness about it when I started having kids that I really never talked to my kids that way, but I always heard that script in my mind. If you were raised by people who were kind of loud, or yellers, or people who are super confrontational, you know what I’m talking about.
I have never really struggled with yelling at my kids. I think because I was so tender, and hurt often, by the way I was spoken to. I remember when I went to kindergarten how gentle and how kind my kindergarten teacher was to me. I thought this is like another world. I was amazed by her level of her soft- spokenness and her level of kindness.
After I wrote my book a few years ago, I actually went back and found her and told her what an impact she made on my life. Her words to me, 45 years ago, still make an impact on my life, and I went back to tell her that.
In my coaching program, Life Mentoring School, we’re studying nurture this month, how we nurture ourselves, how we nurture our children, and how we nurture our own gifts within ourselves. One of the things that people struggle with so much is this topic like yelling. People don’t want to be yelling at their kids. Nobody wants to be at Walmart and hear people yelling at their kids.
We all live as humans in reality, and sometimes we shake our heads and think, “Yes, it is necessary. Have you seen my children? The savages that they are!” So I get it.
The thing that I want to remind us all of is how powerful words are. I think we know this intellectually. We know how powerful they are, but I want you to think of a time in your life where somebody spoke it to you harshly. It was probably when you were younger and you carry it. You’ve carried it forever. You hear it over and over in your mind.
I think we know from our own experience that words are so powerful.
People have done science experiments where they speak kindly to different things and they record the results. In the one with water, they speak positively over this water, and it freezes is this beautiful, amazing pattern.
They do the same thing with negative words with crystals, and the way the crystals form, it’s ugly and not in a pattern.
It’s basically an experiment to tell us what we already know, which is that our words carry power.
Words either bring life or death.
I don’t say that to make us all feel guilty for the times when we don’t speak kindly, but I want to bring in awareness to how we speak to our kids. You may think this is backwards but first you have to pay attention to how you speak to yourself.
The first step to speaking more kindly to other people in your life is to speak more kindly to you.
Many of you have a lot of negative self-talk about yourself. The reason it’s so easy for you to speak negatively to other people is because you do it all day long to yourself. You have this rut worn in your brain of how you talk to yourself, and it just carries over.
I think becoming aware of how we talk to ourselves is really important. I don’t want you to use this to beat yourself up, or to make yourself feel more guilty. I want you to realize you’re just one of the humans who happens to not speak kindly to yourself and to your kids sometimes.
You can decide, “I want to grow in this area.” Heaping on a bunch of guilt and shame about this is actually not going to help you change it.
The only thing that I would recommend is that if you do have a lot of guilt about it, that you just pray and you ask for forgiveness. God will forgive you, and you move on, and you become a lot more aware of how you talk to yourself, and how you talk to the people in your life.
You are either helping people grow and flourish and learn how to talk to themselves right, and learn how to talk to other people, or not.
The funny thing about my experience with raising Thomas is that even though he has this sort of harshness with the way he does it, he’s very sensitive to everything I say to him. He’s very sensitive to my tone of voice. He’s very sensitive even if I’m just tired, he can sense that I don’t have the same inflection in my voice, because I’ve over the years really tried to work on the way I talk to the people in my life.
I just think it’s so interesting because he’s kind of a yeller, so he can yell and he can do all that, doesn’t bother him. But boy, if I so much as change my tone in the slightest, he’s very sensitive to it. I’ve noticed that over time, the more I just hold space for how he has been programmed, like I was programmed when I was little, and I try to not come down on that too much, and I just infuse all the goodness, it has gotten so much better.
To get better at this, speak more kindly to yourself. Realize that you’re human, that you are loved and adored, and that you’ll do plenty of things wrong and there’s grace available.
As you have more patience and kindness, and even curiosity, it gets better. Sometimes when I notice that I’m not speaking life into my people, I’m think, “That’s interesting because I normally do, so what is going on with me?”
Just get curious with yourself about why maybe you’re not speaking the way you want to, to yourself and to other people. Get curious and compassionate, having lots of grace for yourself, and deciding what you want to speak to yourself.
Decide that ahead of time and practice believing that you are the kind of person who speaks life, who speaks kindly, deciding that you’re not a yeller. Maybe you just rewrite that story. It’s just a story you’re telling yourself that you’re a yeller, so just retell a better story.
We set the tone.
When we’re not in a good mood, everybody can feel it. We don’t have to be in a good mood all the time, but we need to be aware of how our presence affects other people, and how powerful our words are.
Words create things.
What am I creating right now in my family, and in my children?
What kind of words?
What kind of life?
What kind of nurture am I creating by the way I speak to them?
We often teach in Life Mentoring School to just take a little pause, when your tendency is to just react, and think, “Life or death.” That may seem dramatic, but it really helps me.
Life or death, what do you choose?
Are you choosing life or death in this reaction?
Are you choosing life or death in these words?
If you have trouble with this, just give yourself a little space, give yourself a little pause, give yourself a little second to not just react because if we just react, we’re just going to mirror them.
There’s a lot of study on emotion that shows that emotions are just energy, and like energies attract each other. Our tendency is going to be to mirror their energy. If they get all riled up and mad, you’re going to have a tendency to match their energy.
You have agency and control over your reaction, and you can take a pause and decide, “No, I don’t want to match that. I want to hold space for peace right here today. I want to hold space for maybe getting curious about what they’re going through.”
We want to be curious as to why we are being impatient or angry, and we want to do the same thing for the people in our lives.
Write it out.
A lot of times, if I’m struggling with one of my kids, I just brainstorm everything I love about them, and I actually write it down.
How can you speak life by writing it down?
How can you decide how you want to speak and think by writing it down FIRST, and kind of practicing?
As you write it down, what you’re going to be amazed by, is that how amazing your people are. You’re going to brainstorm everything you love about them, and you’re going to think, “Oh my gosh. How was I so irritated and mad the other day? These people are amazing.” Brainstorming on paper really, really helps me.
I think that this is something that’s so fun to practice and here’s what’s going to happen. If you tell yourself right now,”Okay, for the rest of the day, I’m going to be really conscious of how I speak,” there’s going to be plenty of opportunity for it to go south. If you live in a family like mine, there’s going to be plenty of opportunity for you to feel justified in what you say.
I want you to ask yourself today, in all those different interactions…
Am I taking a pause?
Am I speaking life or death?
Is this encouraging them to be who they can be?
Is this my highest self showing up to this interaction today?
Maybe you have specific interactions that seem to always go south. If you can think of those times ahead of time, and you can think, “I want to show up as my highest self in this interaction today.” That intention, I’m telling you, will change your life.
When we spend a lot of time yelling and being angry and frustrated with our kids, who is it that’s actually feeling angry and frustrated most of the day? That would be us, right? I don’t know about you, but there’s a lot of other things I would like to feel besides angry and frustrated, and we do have the power to choose something different.
Choose well. Life or death, choose life.