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Instruction Manual for Kids: Teaching Your Kids How To Have A Voice

Last week I reiterated our constant theme of ‘you are always training your kids, by either action or inaction,’ and shared our example of how we do not permit our children to whine (but trust us, this is a process!) .  In our parenting articles, we constantly reiterate the importance of establishing boundaries, and as a parent it is your job to make sure your kids understand those boundaries…  Now, what benefit is it if you have ‘compliant’ children, but they are never trained in the art of ‘having a voice’?

What do I mean by ‘having a voice’ ?  I mean the ability for your kids to express themselves.

Within the boundaries that you set (and enforce), your job is to also teach your kids how to mature their personalities and be understood.  My wife and I do a lot of counseling, and a popular theme within relationship counseling is this burning desire to be understood (even more than being right, being understood resonates deeper within the cradle of our emotions).

When your kids never learn appropriate ways to be heard, they grow up with this pent up resentment towards those with whom they want to be relationally close.  They will be ‘grown-ups’ who revert back to ‘name calling, sarcasm, game playing, yelling, throwing things, pouting, etc’. You know, the ‘childish things’  that little ones practice whenever they are upset or feel that they are not being understood.  As adults, we revert back to the ‘childish ways’ when we know of no other option—so these are things that we lacked ever since childhood.

So… If we don’t want our kids to grow up to be adults without a voice, what are some things we can do now to begin to mature their personalities and train them how to express themselves?

  1. Confidence– your children need to be comfortable speaking up.  Which means you need to intentionally do A LOT of listening and be courteous with your dialogue.  Ask a ton of questions!  When you brush your child off, or you don’t let them get excited to tell you a story, you are telling them their words and passions aren’t valuable.  By being a safe place for your kids to learn how to share whatever is on their mind, you are building a powerhouse of confidence.

  2. Boldness– we don’t allow our kids to speak rudely, and on the flip side we actually teach them to not let others speak rudely to them.  That doesn’t mean that we instruct them to run around and force people to speak nice.  We simply teach our kids that if someone is interacting with them, and the other person is out of line, then they can always (respectfully) say, ‘You know what? I think you can talk a little bit nicer than that.’  And if the ‘offending party’ doesn’t want to comply and be cordial, then they have no moral or social obligation to stand there and engage.  They are so valuable they don’t need to be someone’s door mat.  Courtesy is a two way street and they have every right to require those interacting with them to be civil, as we teach and train them to be civil as well.  We practice this with a game where I say something at them with a snappy tone of voice and they say, ‘I think you can talk a little bit nicer than that.’  I always want them to be comfortable saying that (respectfully – which is paramount) to both men and authority figures.

  3. Contentedness– I know previously I mentioned that it is our job to teach our kids to be understood.  Well, this is the counter and balance to that.  Our kids need to build the skills and to develop the social graces to explain themselves, but they also need to be content with that fact that there are times they will just be misunderstood—and that’s okay.  If you don’t let them know that it’s okay to be completely misunderstood and misrepresented, then it will become an emotional torment to them to feel they have to explain themselves to everyone.

These are principles that we try to drive home with our kids on a daily basis – on every level of interaction that we have with them.  Whether we are instructing them to help with household chores, or we are snuggled up on the couch, we are planting these seeds in the way in which we talk – and listen – to them.  When they know that mom and dad are listening, they are more likely to find their voice…

What are some tips you have?  Are there things you do to help build your kid’s voice?


This post was linked to The Sunday School Blog Hop at Butter Believer, Seasonal Celebrations at Natural Mother’s Network, The Welcome Home Linkup at Raising Arrows, Homestead Barn Hop at The Prairie Homestead, Women Living Well Wednesdays at Women Living Well

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