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Seven Keys for Helping Grow Your Child's Emotional Resilience (page 2)

Seven Keys for Helping Grow Your Child

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Updated on Apr 26, 2011

Key 2 Tone of voice

Why this Key is important

How we use our tone of voice is very significant. In fact, studies show that 30% of how you come across to a listener is through your tone of voice. When we get in the “habit” of speaking in a calm talking voice, we raise the odds that people will listen and keep a positive connection. Your tone can also encourage (or discourage) your child to do their own problem-solving. It is easy to “accidentally” use a stressed tone of voice that sends the message that you are not confident in your child’s ability to learn from mistakes and handle life’s challenging moments.

Communication Concepts and Tools
  • Helicopter parents use voices that convey feelings of alarm or the message, “You can’t do this without my help.”  These voices may make a child have doubts about their own abilities to deal and manage upset. They are often louder in volume and concern than is warranted for the situation.
  • Use a calm, compassionate and caring tone of voice. It sends this message, “It sounds like you have a big feeling or problem. I bet you can make things better.”
  • Self-talk Pay attention to what your voice is saying. Ask yourself, “Does my child hear that I believe in him/her? Does she/he understand that I know some things are hard and I am here to listen and think with him/her?”
  • Listening noises and short compassionate statements can convey you care and understand. Using these will keep you from using words that might interfere with your child doing their own thinking and feeling. Examples are, “Oh, I’m sorry. Darn. That’s hard.”

Key 3 Facial Expression and Body Language

Why this Key is important

Studies show that our faces and body language convey 60% of our communication message when we are both listening and speaking! Many people are unaware of their nonverbal habits that might negatively influence their connections with others. For example, some people may have a facial expression and eyes that look serious or mad when they truly are listening from the heart. 

  • Helicopter parents use facial expressions and body language that look tense, judging or overly concerned. This may be upsetting and misinterpreted by some children. For example, when your child is sharing why they do not like school or a friend, be careful not to look mad or overly concerned. 
  • Use facial expressions and body language that are calm, relaxed and open. These nonverbals communicate, “I get what you are feeling, but this is your feeling to have. Therefore, I look caring and understanding rather than mad or worried when you tell me about a bad experience with a classmate.”
  • Self-talkAsk yourself, “What are my face and body saying? If I am showing fear or anger, can I switch to a face that communicates a caring and empathic message? “
  •  Talk about talking. Decide to increase your awareness of your facial expression and body language. Talk with family members about your mannerisms to be sure that you are sending positive nonverbal messages. You could share, “I realize that when I am listening to something upsetting I squint my eyes. I hope you all know that this means I am listening really hard and really care.”

Key 4 Choose helping words

Why this Key is important

It is always important to truly consider the words we choose when children are upset rather than speaking from habit. We have all had experiences in which we said something and thought, ‘why did I say that?’ For example, your child tells you something that happened that was upsetting and you make a comment that you know is not your best response. You were feeling emotional…did not stop to think…pause…and choose your best words.

  • Helicopter parents use words that tend to start with “wh” or questions that probe for pain. “What did he say? Where was the teacher? Why did you do that? Did you say something to start it?” Helicopter parents also tend to use words to tell a child what to say and do. “I think you should stay away from her. I think you should tell her that you need to take a break from playing.”
  • Use words to help the child think and feel for themselves. These words help children develop the skills that will teach them to “bounce back” (to be resilient) and learn to make upsetting situations better independently. For example, “You really understand what made you feel mad. I wonder what you are thinking that might make things better for you and your friend Charlotte?”
  • Self-talk Ask yourself, “Am I using words that give my child the learning experience?”
  • Comment rather than question (less is best when it comes to talking) It is a common habit to use a series of questions as a way to find out information and get close to our child. “How was your day? Who did you play with? What did you eat?” Consider switching to a comment and pause style, which is more conversational and actually helps to build a stronger connection. “I am so happy to see you.” (Smile, rub back, walk and be quiet.) “I see a painting that looks like you enjoyed being creative.” (Look at picture, keep mouth quiet, smile and wait so your child has a chance to talk.)
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