When our kids were younger and they’d get all snippy with each other or with us, I’d pull out my mantra: “Anything you have to say, can either be said in a kind way or in a mean way. You’re more likely to get what you want when you say things kindly.” I firmly believe (maybe naively) that many of the problems between people could be avoided if they’d just speak to each other in a kinder, more positive way. And I really, truly believe that it can make a huge difference in how marriage and parenting go. I recently witnessed my theory in action, in a bathroom, of all places.
We were at the Aquarium, a fun and happy place. While I was in the bathroom, I heard a mother and her toddler in the stall next to me. From what I could tell, the mom was on the toilet at the time and the child was done and ready to go and started to open the door. The mom started screaming at the child “What do you think you’re doing?! Don’t be stupid! Don’t open the door while I’m sitting on the toilet!” The child said, “But mommy, I’m done and want to wash my hands.” There was more yelling and perhaps a swat because then the child started crying.
Then, on my next trip to the bathroom that day (I drink a lot of water, okay?), there was another mom and tot in a stall and the child tried to open the door. In stark contrast, the mom said, calmly and kindly, “Sweetie, please don’t open the door. Mommy’s not done going to the bathroom yet and it’s not polite to open the door when someone’s going to the bathroom.” “Okay, mommy” was the response. Same exact scenario, totally different approach.
When we choose to let our frustrations, which might not have anything to do with the person we’re talking to, determine the tone and words we use, we are doing far more than just saying words. We are setting a negative tone, crafting relationships, teaching lessons in how to deal with problems and handling feelings. Keeping that in mind, and choosing to select our words and tone before they emerge out of our mouth can have a big impact. And, you’re more likely to get the end result you want in the process. It’s that old saying “You can catch more flies with honey.”
Notice how you and your family members talk to each other, even if it’s just little snips and snaps. And then notice how you feel and how they seem to react. Then try making a point (and it can take practice if this is not your norm) to speak calmly, kindly and with love behind the words. You’ll feel the difference, I know it.
It can be really hard, in the midst of emotions running high, to make the conscious decision to choose the “right” words to say and the right way to say it. But it is important with every relationship you have in life, be it family, friends or co-workers. Our kids are seeing this first hand now that they have part-time jobs, especially one of our kids. He works for an ice cream shop and on almost every shift, he gets a person who flips out if their favorite ice cream flavor isn’t available. It’s ice cream, people!
We try to teach them to not take it personally and chalk it up to that person having a bad day (or a bad life) and to not absorb their negativity. Whether they are the ones doing the snipping or are on the receiving end, it can take effort at first to say things in a more positive, productive way. But doing it over and over again helps it become your normal. And that’s better for everyone.