Monday, August 25, 2014

Why Fathers Should Choose Their Words Reverently

rev·er·enceˈrev(ə)rəns/  (noun) deep respect for someone or something; (verb) regard or treat with deep respect

A confession:  I was an English major in college before I became a therapist.  I like words.  Words are meaningful, and those meanings can make them powerful tools for growth and change.  Every day I spend in my office, I'm using words to create change with people.  I'm fascinated with that process - choosing the right words that will flip the lightswitch on.  It's magic when that happens.  Words create an internal domino effect and have the power to affect who we are.

I often use the word "son" as a proper pronoun when speaking to my son. I wonder if he hears the reverence & respect in the word when I say it?  It's practically an adverb the way I use it.  
I'm not just referencing our biological tie here, I'm saying how important he is to me.  I'm consciously reinforcing the bond between us verbally, hoping that he'll internalize the strong connection between us.
Why?  Because my dad did.  
Our word choice is perpetually shaping our children's view of their world.  Are they going to value others?  Our word choice, tone, and approach with them (and with others!) affects that.  Remember, they're watching you - and modeling their behavior accordingly.
How we treat our children, how we speak to them, and how we act around them directly impacts not only their developing values but their sense of self worth.  There's an awful lot we can do toward shaping their beliefs about themselves.  We need to be conscious of the fingerprints we leave on their identity with the things we do and say.      
I think that was the point. 

"Son, come to the kitchen for breakfast."

Fun fact:  when I told my father about this article, he shared with me that he is unintentionally repeating what my grandfather did with him.   I believe this underscores my point.  

Let me take this a step further, speaking directly to parents:

My father addresses me as "Son" at least as often as he calls me by name, and I love that.  I know who I am, and who I am is valued.  It's the cumulation of lots of subtle things that come together and create our sense of self, our identity as individuals.  It's no secret that many of these little cues and moments are provided by the conscious and unconscious things our parents do in our presence.  What comes out of your mouth influences your children, whether it's constructive or destructive.  We ought to create more conscious cues:  deliberate word choice tone, and demeanor. Because if we're not striving to be the kind of person we expect our children to be, they won't either.  They see straight through "Do as I say, not as I do," and absorb the message that your example is where the bar has been set.  Don't expect them to aim any higher than you do, yourself.  

William Makepeace Thackeray wrote, "Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children."  Just think of how powerful it is to hear your child address you as "Daddy" or "Mommy."  Remember that this effect is reciprocal, and a gift you can give them.  Consciously show them that they are as deeply important to you as you are to them (no matter what your adolescent children may say to the contrary, no one else in their lives is more important to them, or more influential). 

I've always felt there was a standard to be upheld when I was addressed as "Son" by my father.  

I think that was the point.

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