You don’t need us to tell you that parenting often involves striking a tricky balance between trusting your gut and learning new things along the way. Maybe you’re trying to be the type of parent to your own kids that you didn’t have, or maybe it’s purely a top priority to raise secure, confident kiddos however you can.
Turns out, simply shifting your tone of voice when speaking to your child — no matter how old they are — can help ensure they feel seen, heard, and loved, in turn helping to empower them in ways you might not even realize.
The technique, dubbed gentle communication, was discussed by clinical psychologist, author, and therapist Dr. Sue Johnson on a recent episode of the Open Relationships: Transforming Together podcast. Johnson shared that the mere act of lowering your tone of voice in favor of something softer when speaking to your little ones can help remind them that you are there for them unconditionally, something many of her patients mention lacking in their own upbringings.
She cited the late psychologist John Bowlby, who is credited with coining the attachment theory style of parenting, noting, “He looked at mothers and children and the bonds between them, and he looked at mothers who had secure bonds with their children and he looked at the way they interacted. They weren’t distant and blaming and judgmental and telling the kid what to do all the time. They also came close, dropped their voice, talked softly.”
“The relationship message there is: ‘I’m here, you’re safe with me, I’m here for you, I see you,’” she continued. “The number of people who come to me traumatized in their family of origin and they always say the same thing. They say things like ‘nobody saw me. I was invisible.’”
Johnson echoed the powerful reminder that we as human beings can’t give that power to ourselves if we don’t feel it from someone else around us, which is why this tiny shift in your manner of speaking could help gently remind your child that they are important, and that what they think, feel, and say matters.
Whew. If you grew up in a household where you didn’t have someone going to bat for you in this way, you’ll know just how powerful this notion can be. Then, you can model that for those around you, be they your own children or other loved ones in your life, which can help you find healing in your own ways, too.