A few years ago I was cleaning out some old toys that my children had out grown and I found an old brightly colored, heavy duty, children’s Playskool tape recorder from the 1980’s. It was a little beat up, as it had been well loved and used a lot over the years. The tape was still inside so I hit play and was amused with the sounds of my children’s voices that had been captured on the tape. I listened for a while trying to pinpoint the year the tape was made. I decided that it was shortly after my last child, a daughter, was born. My next oldest child was a boy who would have been 3 years old at that time.
Now, the next part of the story I am not proud of but it needs to be told for me to prove my point.
After listening for a while I heard myself say to my 3 year old son, “DON’T YOU EVEN THINK ABOUT IT’’ in a mean, hateful tone. I gathered from the situation that he was about to pull an attention getting stunt that would hurt our new baby. I was so ashamed and filled with sadness that I had used such a harsh tone of voice with him. At the time, in the heat of the situation I’m sure I was not feeling very companionate and had NO IDEA my words were being recorded for posterity. But as I stood there listening I had several thoughts and feelings.
“Did my words to him let him know how much I loved him”?
“Would I have talked to him that way if my adult friends were listening”?
“Would I have spoken with the same tone of voice to an adult acquaintance who was not a member of my family”?
The answer to all those questions is, “Probably not”. So why is it so easy to be the most unkind to those we love the most? Those should be the ones to whom we are the most kind. In our homes our words have the great potential to do so much harm or so much good. I realized I needed to remember to speak at least as nicely to my child as I would to a stranger in a grocery store line.
Over the years I’ve thought of that experience so many times. It’s become a check for me to remember to speak as kindly as if my words were being recorded to be re-played for an audience.