The Voice In Your Children’s Head and You

“Your voice is the voice in your child’s head when she’s grown up”

No truer words were spoken when, in the midst of fast-rising floodwaters back in 2008, my father’s voice echoed in my head. “Flashflood. Pack the essentials. Get out. Move to higher ground. Now. Now. NOW!”

I had no time to panic, my two girls were little more than babies at that time. I was alone with three kids and two nannies who needed me to keep my head tightly screwed to my shoulders that very moment.

June 2008; there was no rain, very little wind, the city was under Typhoon Frank signal No. 2. What happened that day came as the biggest shock of my adult life. I had never experienced a flashflood before. The waters surged higher than my waist in a matter of seconds, the current was alarmingly strong. I wondered then if my family and I would get out unscathed.

My father’s voice has taken residence in my mind. It is the voice of caution, of reason, and down-to-earth common sense with a dose of pragmaticism thrown in for good measure. Through the years, his calm and collected ways has tempered my otherwise emotional reactions to situations that I felt were beyond my control.

The line above hits hard, because I have growing children. The responsibility is enormous. How do I impart all the good in this life to them? How do I make them strong, ethical, independent individuals? What will happen to them when I’m gone?

Parenting is never easy but once or twice I’d run into a random line like the one above. It is enough to give me a whiplash and question my approach in parenting three distinct and awesome individuals. It makes me overthink matters and perform an evaluation of my mothering career stat!

How do I relate to my kids?

I get off my high horse and bend my knees to their level until we see eye-to-eye. I use words they understand, and explain the words they don’t. But I never take that moment as an opportunity to talk down to them. Kids hate being lectured and hectored. They sense it when they’re being patronized and they hate that too.

How do I speak to them?

I am not a poster mom who’s soft spoken and gentle. At times I resemble a fire breathing dragon dishing out do’s and dont’s, and promising dire consequences. But I do my best to listen to them. I’ve learned that with kids, it’s not the words but the tone of my voice that matters. It is not about shushing them but patiently waiting for them to flesh out their thoughts in the manner they know how. I do my best to be an impartial listener and a safe place where their thoughts and ideas are welcome.

How do I impart skills to them?

Aside from enrolling them in music, swimming, arts & crafts, etc., I teach by example. I let my children fail because I believe that frustration is simply motivation in disguise. I push them to develop their potential by offering honest but gentle critique of their work. I have never to this day done any of their schoolwork, or help in their projects. I do less mothering than is expected. And it works.

“Do you ever hear voices in your head?” I asked my son. “I hear your voice mom, when I’m in doubt or when I need to do something, or find an answer.” Plain and simple and so true. It makes me weak in the knees to know how profoundly I impact my children. Being the voice of reason in their heads is staggering and it’s humbling.

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