The Words We Speak: The Language of Positive Parenting
By: Michelle Madrid-Branch
“Speak to your children as if they are the wisest, kindest, most beautiful and magical humans on earth, for what they believe is what they will become.”
I don’t often begin a blog post with a quote. However, the above quote, by Brooke Hampton, seemed appropriate for the topic of positive parenting: often described as the journey to peace and harmony within a family. Positive parenting is also referred to as a process that prepares a child for independence. While these descriptions are true, it is my belief that—more than a journey or a process—positive parenting is a language, one that we as parents should make a top priority to become fluent in.
Words matter. And, the words we breathe into our children will become their oxygen. Will we breathe into our children words of worth, hope, kindness, potential, and unconditional love? Expanding their hearts, minds, and spirits? Or, will we pollute their air with words that reduce and diminish them?
As an adult adoptee, my work is focused on breathing life-affirming oxygen into a community that I was made part of as a child: the foster care and adoption community. I’m a former foster child, from the United Kingdom, who was internationally adopted. My own foster records are riddled with words and descriptions of me that polluted my early sense of self-worth. Words like: unwanted, strange looking, illegitimate, and difficult to place. My physical well-being had been protected through social services, yet the judgments made and the words used by the adults around me, left my spirit and my self-esteem unprotected.
After adoption, I grew up keeping silent about the wounds gaping wide-open inside of me. Words that whispered I was a mistake, a bad girl, and an unwanted child who was lucky that someone—anyone—had been good enough to take me in and raise me. I could not count, as a girl, the many times friends and acquaintances of my family told me how kind my parents were for “doing something like this,” for adopting me.
Their words, perhaps well intended, made me feel dirty and lesser than everyone else around me. You see, the words we speak into our children matter, from the earliest of their beginnings because those words become their inner-environment. Those words become the mirror through which they see themselves. Those words will set the foundation for the person they’ll grow into, because “what they believe is what they will become.”
As a mom-by-adoption, I am keenly aware of the words I speak to my children. Much of this awareness began when I learned how to speak words of love and kindness to myself. You cannot give to others what you have yet to receive.
I believe that the language of positive parenting starts when we, as parents, are able to look inward and see what areas of our own lives—our own childhoods—may be negatively influencing our parenting, today, and our ability to connect, authentically, with our children. It’s imperative to bring those areas out into the light in order to heal them. This is where we begin to create fluency in a positive language that will serve to lift our children up, as well—no matter what they’ve been through, or what they’re currently going through.
I don’t want to pass down to my kids the legacy of shame that followed me for so long, as I grew from child to adult. There was never anything for me to be ashamed of, but the words in my earlier life suggested that there was. And, I believed those words. Words that were spoken to me by adults of whom I trusted…and, perhaps, what I could not see then was this: these adults were not fluent in positive language because they had never been shown it. In order to do better, we have to know better.
As a parent, I want to breathe into my children life-generating oxygen. This is essential for all children, and even more so with children of adoption and foster care. I want to remind my kids that no matter their stories, no matter their earliest circumstances—they are not the sum of what has happened to them. They are so much more than the situation that occurred which caused them to be shifted into a new and different life. Past circumstance has absolutely nothing to do with who they are, or the potential that they hold.
Our kids—all kids—are magic. They are promise and goodness. They can rise up over any challenge that has tried to keep them down. And, they can, on the other side of that challenge, become greater, better, stronger than the young person they were before.
This is also true for you, dear parents. The days may have been long. We all know that parenting can be challenging and stressful. You don’t have to be perfect. Be kinder to yourself than that. Don’t expect perfection from your kids, either. Be kinder to them than that. Remind yourself that you are wise, beautiful, and magical. Remind your children of the same. Create peace and harmony within yourself and watch that feeling flow into your children.
Speak the language of positive parenting into your kids. Tell them that you love them. Tell them you are sorry for anything that you, or anyone, have ever said that made them feel diminished—lesser than—all that they’ve been created to be. Ask for forgiveness because to forgive another is the path to freedom. And, our children need to see that kind of gesture lived out loud.
Thank your children for the gift of being their parent because gratitude is everything. And, tell your children that you believe in them—tell them often. This, is the oxygen of love. May we breathe these life-generating words into our children, and may we do so now.
Michelle Madrid-Branch is an author, speaker, international adoptee, and global advocate for women and children; specializing in the areas of adoption, foster care, abandonment recovery, and identity reconciliation. She is the author of Adoption Means Love: Triumph of the Heart. Michelle’s mission is to ensure that the adoption community is heard, seen, valued, respected, and understood. To learn more about Michelle, visit: MichelleMadridBranch.
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