How you speak to yourself becomes your child's inner voice

It breaks my heart when I watch people say self-deprecating things to themselves. And when a child does it, it’s double the pain.

Why do we cope by being down on ourselves? What message does that give to a child?

Grown-ups can be self-deprecating by nature. Sometimes we see it as a sense of humor. It’s called sarcasm (a prime way we, as adults, cope). But underneath it we hurt, criticize, are bothered, maybe disappointed but we don’t say that.

Well, here’s how you really start…

How you speak to yourself becomes your child’s inner voice.

What do you say in your head about yourself?
Kids feel it.

What you say in conversation about yourself?
Kids know it.

What do you say about yourself when your kid is in the other room?
They hear it.

Kids are more intuitive than we realize.

How we speak to ourselves and about ourselves matters because this is the model that our children will follow. Children often treat themselves how we treat ourselves.

For example, a parent will say, “But Di Ana, I have never told my child she is fat and yet she is saying ‘I am fat.’”

Let me tell you a little story…

Last week, I was looking in my mother’s antique vanity mirror. It sits in my bedroom. It’s obtrusive and the mirror a little warped on the upper right corner, but I can still manage to see my full frame.

And for the record, I never stand naked to look at my body. Nope. I’ve never been one of those women to strut my stuff nor luxuriate in being looked at.

I was alone in the room but something was quite loud. I heard the same criticisms in my head my mother always said to herself. My mother never dared to say them to me the way she would criticize herself. My mother loathed that lower belly (that as I got older noticed all women have), other parts of aging were hard for her. Always saying “I wish I had the luxury to fix these things, pointing out her neck and thighs.”

Mom always told me I had the “cutest little figure” but to herself, she displayed very different messages.

It was then it dawned on me: I hate my body as much – if not more – than my mother did. My mother’s years of criticizing herself was passed on directly to me with absolutely zero conscious intention.

A mother’s self-criticism becomes their child’s inner voice.

Today I can’t help but think if my mother had accepted her body maybe I would have had a better chance of loving mine.

So if you want a child that exudes confidence, compassion, grace and grit, then ask yourself this…

How often does your child see you speaking kindly to/about yourself?

When my friend Karen couldn’t do her daughter’s 7th grade math homework, I heard her say, “I never did well in math, your father is the smart one.” Karen always felt less than because she didn’t go “Ivy League” like her husband.

Here’s the deal: your self-worth is not based on whether you know what a greatest common denominator is or if you went “Ivy League”. It’s about acceptance. Accepting yourself in the “not knowing, not good enough and the feelings of inadequacy”. Parents are not omnipotent creatures of perfection, but many expect themselves to be. Perfection hurts your child. It makes something unachievable as standard.

When you accept yourself in the “not knowing,” your child will accept themselves and learn more.

Remember all the “less than” limitations you may say to yourself have an impact – a lasting one – for your child.

So today, here’s what I want you to do…

Notice if you can begin to highlight your personal wins, what’s going well? Use that to fuel conversation with your child. As opposed to always leading with: what needs to be fixed, done better or all of your worries and concerns in the world.

Ask your child …

“What happened today that was really fun, exciting? (Your kids doesn’t have any) Okay …I’ll share a few of mine from work/home first!”

Model the response for the child.

“What’s something you really like about yourself today? I’ll go first or second, you choose!”

Model how to see the good in themselves.

“What’s something that was challenging today or didn’t make you feel so good? I’ll tell you mine first and then you can share, ok?”

Model how you handle a setback.

This, right here, is how you start and I ((promise)) you will start to feel a major change for your child – and for yourself. We cannot expect a child to magically model behavior they never see you do.

And always remember …

The kinder you speak to yourself, the nicer your child will speak to themselves.