Language matters. From the start of communication, how we speak has always mattered. Language seems to be the first to go in today's technological world. Suddenly, everyone is talking in some new code, shortening actual language to coincide with the texting and messaging that has overtaken our world. A little dramatic?? Maybe. But it's not untrue… Let's see how parenting with a focus on language works and why it matters so much!
Language is a Learned Behavior
Your children WILL speak as you speak. If you have an accent, your child will likely pick it up. If you always say, “ya'll,” your children will too. I always find it so funny when the boys say something that I immediately identify as something they heard from me.
But, have you had that moment where your kids repeat something you wish they hadn't?! Ughhh… Yup, I have to. While children will continue to say the darndest things, you can limit the embarrassment by focusing on the language you use while parenting. Children learn their language from the world around them. Put in the work now to teach your child to speak correctly, and you can avoid some cringe-worthy moments (but probably not all….).
Language to Avoid
When communicating with your children, there are certain areas of language that you should avoid. The most common? Cussing, belittling, and indistinct. Let's break these down:
I used to cuss like a pirate. Ask anyone that has worked in an office with me, and they will confirm that I was good at dropping the F-Bomb like others would use the word “like.” It was awful! But, since I didn't have children to tend to, it didn't seem to matter then. Once we had Declan, all of that changed. My husband and I became hyper-aware of the words we used. I'm not saying that I no longer ever cuss, there are times that they slip out, but I am very intentional not to curse around the kids. Why?
NEWSFLASH: I don't want my kids to curse. It's not cute and funny when your kindergartener cusses all the time. I remember when the movie “Seeing Red” came out, and there were posts in my momma's group about the film's content. One of the complaints was that the movie characters said “crap.” My word, the comments from moms, saying that they WISH “crap” were the worst thing their kids said was disturbing. I get that kids will say things they shouldn't. However, if your child is cussing and using harsh language, they learned it from SOMEWHERE.
Language is learned. While how you raise your kids is none of my business, it does affect how I've raised my children once they reach school age. If it's not you cussing, but your kids are picking it up from somewhere, find the source and put a stop to it. Correct your kids when they say these words. But, most importantly, check yourself. I get that a good F-Bomb has its place to be used, but it is not in front of your kids regularly.
Another form of communication to avoid is belittling. Belittling is the act of making someone feel worthless, empty, or dismissed. Common examples of belittling your children include not showing excitement when they complete something, ignoring them, or even blaming them for stressful situations you've endured. We are all culprits of aggravation with our kids. It happens. However, making belittling a standard in your parenting can be devastating to your child's development.
Kids, in general, seek interaction and praise. Remember back when you were a child? Parenting was much more authoritarian when we were growing up. We were expected to follow all commands from our parents, or they would meet us with a spanking. This is just how our parents raised our generation. I remember always saying, “Mom, look,” and “Dad, watch” We all did it. Some of our parents were very attentive, and others were not. Think back to how it made you feel to be talked down to or ignored. Even more, think about how it made you feel when mom wouldn't watch.
I get it. Having children constantly asking for our attention is exhausting. However, there are ways to lessen the “Hey mom, look” repetitiveness. I typically stop it by telling my kids that I am watching, and the next one to say, “Hey mom, look,” has to take a time out from the activity. Or, I tell them that I have to watch both of them and will go back and forth and that they need to be respectful of each other's needs. Whichever way you combat it is up to you, but ensure that you are filling their cups for the interaction and praise they need.
“Because I said so!” Yup, that's what I'm referring to here. We have all said it, and we were all raised with that being a common saying from our parents. However, being indistinct about why a child should listen to you is a slippery slope. Correcting children and providing a reason WHY they need to obey is much more beneficial to your child's growth.
Below we will discuss different terms and traits to add to your parenting arsenal when communicating with your kids and the benefits of using these methods. For now, think if you were working at your job and your boss wanted you to get a quote done to close a big deal for the company. When you meet with your boss to question some of the items in the quote, they stop you mid-sentence and tell you, “because I said so.” How would you feel? You are responsible for getting the quote completed for your customer. You are responsible for closing the deal. However, if you can not communicate with your boss when you have concerns about the process, you probably would feel like you aren't very valuable to the company.
On the other side, you don't want your children to talk back with their justification of a situation constantly. I get it. I also expect my children to have first-time obedience when given a command. However, when they push back, combat them with actual reasons. For instance, the kids are jumping off the couch onto a pile of stuffed animals, and you've asked them to stop. They come back with, “but mom, why?!?” You could say, “because I said so.” It would likely work, but would it really answer your kids' questions? No, it wouldn't. Instead, you could respond, “you are getting too wild with your jumps, and I'm concerned you will get hurt.” Then you could follow up with a good ol – “And, because I said so.” I know you will still say it, but I assure you that when you add more reasons behind your commands, the kids won't push back so much.
Language to Master
I've always been a bit of a language nerd (well, really just a nerd, but whatever…). I speak correctly and use proper grammar for the most part. When you talk to my boys, it's evident that I also use proper language when parenting and communicating with them. They also use big words and speak correctly. The other day Bodie asked his dad what his favorite show was on Game Show Network (yes, we love some GSN around here!). Josh responded with “Family Feud” mainly because he couldn't think of any of the shows since he is at work when we watch them, and his first pick, “Jeopardy,” is on a different channel. Bodie's response? “Dad, Family Feud has inappropriate language.” Yup, that's the one show we avoid on GSN, and that is the reason I had given to the boys as to why they couldn't watch that show.
When deciding how to communicate with your kids, focus on developing their vocabulary, acknowledging their feelings, and providing an option. Below we will get more specific on the terms and words that I use with the boys, but for now, let's break these broad suggestions down:
Teaching your children new words is hugely beneficial. However – do not implement a new term if you do not have a definition ready! For real, you know that your kid will come back with, “What's that mean?” as soon as they hear the new word, so be prepared! Another benefit of incorporating new words into your child's vocabulary is that it will catch their attention. For instance, if you always say, “because I said so,” or, “you'll get hurt,” your child will start to tune you out. Throw out new words like “integrity” or “cautious,” and your kid will naturally be intrigued and want to learn more.
I use different character traits when communicating with the boys. I usually use the same characteristics when correcting them until they implement the wanted quality and eliminate unwanted behavior. Once that is accomplished, and your child knows the definition, you can focus more on new traits to explore as needed, and when you need to correct your kid for the traits they already learned, you can bring the previous words out. It's a win-win. Trust me.
Children are little humans with big feelings. They don't yet know how to mask their feelings and hide their dissatisfaction as adults do. So, we deal with meltdowns, tantrums, and freakouts. It's exhausting, but remember, you can simultaneously acknowledge their feelings and correct their behavior. My husband is a big fan of the “stop crying” statements. While I get that you want the child to stop crying, first, you need to acknowledge that the crying stems from something. Identify the issue, recognize their feelings, and provide a solution with options.
For instance, your kid is playing with a toy too roughly, and it breaks. Cue the major freakout with crocodile tears and unidentifiable language. You could tell them to stop crying, that it's just a toy. Or, you can take the extra steps to really acknowledge what your child is dealing with. Get on their level and let them know that you understand how they are feeling and that you are sorry the toy broke. Assure them that you will try to fix it, but sometimes playing too rough leads to broken toys. Lastly, use this as a learning opportunity with a solution. Explain to them that they need to be careful with their toys and ask them to devise a way to fix the toy with you. If it is unfixable, offer the child to keep the broken toy or toss it in the trash. Sometimes keeping the broken toy will calm them more than just throwing it away.
All situations will be different for freakouts. However, using the same basic fundamentals of acknowledging, empathizing, and finding a solution will help minimize the tears and chaos in that situation. Don't just tell your kids to stop crying. We aren't trying to raise emotionless robots; rather, we are trying to raise emotionally conscious adults.
Another area of language to master as a parent is providing options. While there are areas of the kid's lives where options would not be beneficial, simply trying to find a way to incorporate more options let your child at least feel like they have some say in how their day is going. I've been known to provide options to get my kids to do what I want them to do. I'm not referring to scenarios like “You can eat what mom made for dinner, or you can eat rocks.” Like, what? That's the weirdest option ever. While it would get your child to eat what you made, it's not really letting them feel like they have a choice.
I am using options like “Oh, you can eat the snow, but you might also eat some dirt and bugs and whatever else is in there.” Making them pause and rethink their decision. Or, I'll provide an option of “sure, you can stay up over nap, but you have to earn it by picking up all the toys first.” It's not necessarily two different paths for them to choose from, but it either provides insight into why I don't recommend it or what my expectations are for them to get the reward. You can also use simpler, more common options. Examples would be “do you want PB&J for lunch or grilled cheese?” and “Do you want to go to the park or the aquarium?”
Language is Powerful
Language is the most powerful tool that humans have. When used correctly, disasters can be avoided, and understanding can occur. In today's world, adults abuse the power of language. Just look at social media. People are behind their screens, giving all sorts of unwanted opinions, which literally solves NOTHING. I like to consider language a very powerful tool when parenting your children. How you speak to your kids is how your kids will speak to you. How you work with your kids to solve a problem is how your kids will work with their peers to solve a problem. Implementing new traits for your child to learn and adapt will set them up to succeed with those traits and to display them when you are not around to remind them about it.
Boot Camp Mom Says
Below I will provide examples of character traits to start teaching your children, but for this section, I wanted to provide you with sayings that Boot Camp Mom uses regularly. My kids often finish these statements when I start them, and they use them when communicating with their friends.
- Sharing is Caring
- Respect Each Other's Wishes
- You Get What You Get, and You Don't Throw a Fit
- Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
- Pay the Dues for the Fun You Choose
- The Golden Rule: Treat Others How You Want Them to Treat You
- Listen More Than You Speak
- Obey Without Delay
- Speak “To” Each Other, Not “Over/At” Each Other
Incorporating specific sayings when communicating with your children makes the correction seem less like a correction and more like a loving comment. Plus, if they rhyme, your kids are more likely to remember them. I mean, that's why Cocomelon is so popular, right? Get creative, make it fun, and most importantly, make an impact on your kids' lives.
Character Traits to Teach Your Kids
Alright!! Let's get into the character traits that you should teach your children. I am sure that you will find new ideas outside this list because I know that I always find new ones. The list below is what I have focused on for my kids to get them to really understand how their character and behavior should be. Some things to keep in mind:
- ALWAYS know the definition of the character trait before you introduce it to your child. You know they will question the new word as soon as they hear it. You might as well be prepared for those questions.
- REMEMBER what traits you have used and which ones you need to incorporate. Below is a sign-up box for you to download our Character Trait cards by signing up for the email list. These are great tools to incorporate!
Character Traits and Terms:
Integrity: Do what you are supposed to do, even when nobody is watching. I question the boys on their integrity all the time. Once I taught them the definition, you could see the wheels turning in their head as they decided how to act.
Respectful: Teach your children to respect people, places, animals, and things! Emphasize the importance of respecting family, teachers, coaches, and doctors.
Consequence: Teach your children that every action has a consequence. Good behavior gets rewarded, and bad behavior gets punished.
Decision: Rather than teaching your child to make a choice, have them make a decision. Let them know that the decision is set in stone.
Appreciation/Gratitude: Teach your children to say “thank you” and show appreciation even if they don't really like the gift. Especially at birthday parties!
Confidence: I have my boys take a deep breath, have confidence, and “do the thing” whenever they struggle. This works really well with sports. You'll be surprised how often your child will sink the basketball or hit the baseball after you remind them to be confident!
Cautious: I have a hard time teaching my children about dangers in the world without making them scared to experience the world. I've turned to teaching them to be cautious in certain situations. They need to know that there are bad people and things in the world around them and how to approach those situations cautiously.
Cooperation: Your children need to be aware that the more they cooperate with daily tasks, like brushing their teeth and getting dressed, the quicker and easier the process is for everyone.
Creativity: Acknowledge when your kids are being creative! If they draw, build, or even figure out a new way to do things!
Generosity: It is always better to be generous than to be selfish. Sharing is caring!
Honesty: Honesty is always the best policy, but you must teach your children ALWAYS to be honest with you! Remind them that they will ultimately get in more trouble for lying than for the actual act they are lying about.
Forgiveness: Teach your children to forgive. Not forget, but forgive people. I use this when the boys are mad at each other for breaking something of the others. It is also important to note that they must learn to forgive in order to be forgiven!
Courage/Bravery: Instill courage in your children. Have them stand up for others and teach them they don't have to follow the crowd. They will also need to have courage and be brave when battling their fears.
Politeness: Manners! Teach, teach, teach manners! Please and thank you and yes ma'am no ma'am are a must in our house! Ask them to help you when you have too many things to carry. Show them the importance of holding a door and giving a smile. It is always a good time to be polite!
Kindness/Humility: Please emphasize kindness. Your children need to be kind to their friends, their family, strangers, and even the bully at school. It takes zero effort to be kind! It is also good to let your kids know to humble themselves when necessary. It is not good to boast and be a bragger when it can be avoided.
Reliability: Explain to children that when they make a commitment, they must follow through. They must do their job and do what they say they will do.
Self-Control: Teach this one young! It will significantly help your child's future teacher! Stress the importance of being in control of their body and their mind. Also, teach them the importance of treats and indulgences!
Empathetic: Kids need to know that not everyone has the home life that they have. When your child comes home from school and talks about a classmate having a problem, remind them to be empathetic towards their unknown situation. But, also stress that this is not an excuse for the bad behavior.
Patience: Patience will help the kids and YOU! Not to mention anyone who ever comes in contact with your kids. Life is crazy with hurrying and waiting. They might as well learn to cope at a young age!
Encouragement: Lift your child up! Encourage them when times are hard. Let them know to lift others up as well. This can be used at school, the playground, and even with sports. A little encouragement can go a long way!
Love of Learning: Again, set your kids up for success! Make learning fun! Teach them that the more they learn, the easier the learning will become. An added bonus is that they will also like school if they are used to learning at home.
Fairness: Children need to be fair in games and in life. Giving each other turns, letting others decide what to play, and even allowing their sibling to go first are all great ways to be fair.
Teamwork: Remind your children that they are part of a team. The family is a team, and we all work towards the same goal. Children need to know that they must do their part when the team is trying to accomplish something. It will make team sports a little easier down the road too.
Curiosity: Yes, I know we are all tired of the “WHY” questions our kids manage to ask a hundred times a day. However, if your child is not questioning your authority, then this is really just a sign of curiosity. Your children should wonder and want to know how things work. If you don't know the answer – Google it! My kids now ask me, “Can you just Google it, Mom?”
Leadership: With my past, I would be shocked if my kids were not leaders one day. My mom always tells me that when she would go in for my parent/teacher conferences, the teachers would always say, “Samantha is such a leader.” My mom, of course, would always reply with, “You can just say that she's bossy.” True? Yes. But being a leader and taking charge of a situation is a great trait to instill in your children!
Communication: Take all of the awkwardness out of your kids (well, maybe just a little…) by teaching them how to communicate. Not only with adults but teach them how to start a conversation with new friends. Highlight the key information they should seek, like name, age, and what they want to play. Every little bit will help!
Humor: Most kids are naturally funny. However, it is also important to teach your child to be able to laugh at themselves. We can avoid many of the “tears of embarrassment” if we teach them that it's okay to be the butt of the joke. Sometimes.
Language, which by definition is the principal method of communicating with one another, is a learned behavior. There are forms of language you should avoid, but more importantly, there are so many essential forms you should implement! Harness the power of language and teach your children valuable traits and communication skills! Character traits can be used to mold your child into a great human being. Remember – they are always listening! You've got this!