My daughter has now said the word ‘fuck’ at least three times. And get this- she used it appropriately each time! I’d say that’s pretty impressive for a two year old, and it’s also hilarious to hear. It isn’t, however, something I really want her saying at this age, so I’m trying really hard not to encourage it. This means not laughing when she says it, as well as trying not to say it when she’s in hearing range. I’m not going to lie- it’s my favorite word to use, so it’s a little tricky. But sometimes being a good mom means making sacrifices, so it seems my favorite word has got to go. For now anyway. This is just one of the ways in which I’m learning to pay attention to how I talk.
Over the last few months, I’ve really had to watch what I’ve been saying, especially if I don’t want it repeated. Emily is an absolute chatter box these days and is adamant about communicating and learning as many words as she can. All day long, it’s “Mommy, this word,” or “Mommy, that.” She names everything she sees and calls out numbers and colors and letters. To make sure that she’s understood, she will repeat whatever she’s saying again and again until you repeat it clearly. If you get it wrong, she’ll keep going. Sometimes the things that she says amaze me and I find myself wondering where she learned that word. It didn’t take me too long to realize that it was something my husband or I had said in her presence.
She is a repeater.
Parroting is a very common stage for most toddlers, and Emily is definitely going through it right now. Mostly it’s single words, sometimes phrases. If Tom or I say anything, she’ll say it to herself quietly, then maybe start yelling it at us. It’s a cute little game to show off for Grandma, but it can get a little worrisome sometimes. For instance, if I’m not thinking and I say something bad (Like ‘what the fuck’ after taking a burnt dinner out of the oven), I have to try to figure out a way to explain to her that mommy shouldn’t have said that and she shouldn’t either. I’m a big fan of practice what you preach, so if I don’t want her doing something, I try not to do it around her.
She’s not just learning what I intentionally teach her.
Our kids are pretty much always listening to what we’re saying, whether on a conscious level or not. They often take in a lot more than we realize, not what we say to them, but what we say to ourselves. Whether we intend to or not, we’re teaching them how to talk to themselves. If you’re constantly putting yourself down, your child will learn to do that too. I know this for a fact, because I learned how to do it by watching and hearing my own mom do it. (I wrote a bit about this here earlier this month.)
Often times, we are our own worst critic.
No one is harder on us than we are on ourselves, especially if you’re an overthinker or someone with trauma brain. It’s common practice to put ourselves down. If we make a mistake, rather than saying it’s a lesson learned and moving on with the intention to do better next time, often we berate ourselves. I’m so stupid. I can’t do anything. Why did I even try this? I’m a failure. I hate myself. Sound familiar? Now, if a loved one made the same mistake, we would NEVER say any of those things to them! We’d probably try to encourage them and tell them that it’s okay. That everyone makes mistakes. Why don’t we offer ourselves the same grace?
Being a mom has made me hyper aware of negative self-talk.
Knowing that my daughter is learning from my example, I am making very intentional strides towards eliminating the negative self talk and embracing self love instead. Whenever I think something negative about myself, I think about her listening and I try to turn it around. I think about how I would feel hearing her say the same thing about herself, and it breaks my heart. And so instead, I think about what I would say to her if I heard her say it, and I try to give myself that response instead. I’m able to reframe the negative into something positive or reassuring. This means that rather than wallowing in self hate or feeling bad, I’m able to do something. I can be proactive, figure out where the negative thought came from and how to change the circumstances of my life that are making me feel so low. It’s a pretty great strategy for improving my life and making it something I can be proud of.
Give yourself grace and love.
This is really the ultimate lesson here. The lesson I learned when I became a mom. I know that I want my daughter to grow up to be someone who really loves herself. I want her to feel confident and proud of who she is. To accept herself and to be genuinely happy with her life. I know that the best way to do this is to teach her to give herself grace, and the best way to do that is through example. And so I learned to give myself grace and love.
It was a lesson long overdue for me, but better late than never! Since I started this practice of watching how I talk, my life has improved greatly. Not only am I kinder to myself, but I’ve changed the kind of behavior I accept from others as well. Because I realized that I deserve better, and throughout all of the years I was being so horrible to myself, I was teaching others that I was okay with being treated that way. No more!
There’s enough negativity in the world already without piling it onto yourself or inviting others to do it to you.
Let’s be better, for ourselves and for our children. It’s as easy as changing the way that we talk.