Hearing Voices


by Angela Hedges

Hearing VoicesBefore having kids I envisioned talking with my children about all the wonderful thoughts in their heads. Our conversations would be like watching an episode of Kids Say the Darnedest Things. The days would pass with games and ideas and hugs. I’d discipline in a firm but loving tone when that was even necessary. Mostly we’d explore and laugh and learn.


Though I always suspected reality wouldn’t be quite like my Super Nanny dream, I wasn’t prepared how difficult it is to stay calm when your kid pushes your buttons for the hundredth time in twenty minutes. Like most Latin moms I have a hot temper. When I can’t take any more I explode in a loud, fast and angry bout of yelling that ends in tears for at least one of us. I feel awful but hey, yelling is part of what moms do. You try to stay calm but sometimes you need to go for verbal smackdown.

It didn’t feel right, though. The screaming and the lectures were becoming my default mode. That reasonable firm mother rarely made an appearance. Plus all the yelling didn’t seem to be working. I’d find myself screeching at my kids again about the same things over and over. If it was this bad with toddlers I didn’t want to think about life with teenagers.

Just as I was at the breaking point a friend shared this quote: “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” What a frightening and empowering thought. All that lecturing was doing more than making the kids (and me) upset for a little while. My words were becoming their personal dialogue.

I’m so disappointed in you.”

Why can’t you listen?”

I can’t believe you’re doing it again. You don’t deserve the things we give you.”

Suddenly it became bigger than me getting angry and making them cry. My temper has the power to be internal soundtrack for the rest of their lives. The good news is the opposite is just as true. Hearing reassuring and loving words can be a part of how they see themselves. The tough part is actually being positive when the kids are acting up.

What do I want to hear when I mess up? Certainly not harsh words. I want to be comforted, to be reminded of the things I got right, to know that someone believes in me. Why should I think that yelling at a child and pointing out their mistakes will help? It wouldn’t help me. Still, it’s not easy to talk this way to a misbehaving child. It feels weak, as if my kids are getting away with murder or walking all over me. It helps to remember that words and actions are not the same. You can give a consequence without a lecture. A child can lose their favorite toy or be assigned extra chores without an earful of crazy mom.

It helps to come up with a few good things to say so I’m all set the next time junior steals his sister’s toy again. I think about what I’d like to be told and try to start with some empathy, things like “I know how much fun it is…” or “I’ll bet it’s hard to…” From there it’s easier to keep my cool as I explain that he’ll be spending a little time in his room. I also end with something encouraging such as “I know you’ll do the right thing.” A child with an inner voice like that is going to be one confidant kid.

Do I still yell? All the time. You can’t undo a lifetime of bad behavior after reading one inspirational quote on Pinterest. Things are improving though. I stop myself when I feel my blood boiling. I take a minute before starting in with a lecture. And it’s working. The less I yell, the more the kids seem to cooperate. Plus my own inner voice is getting more positive. I hear less “You’ll never get this right” and more “It’s tough being a mom, but you’re hanging in there.” That’s a soundtrack I can get used to.

Angela Hedges put aside a successful career in social media to pursue her passions: family and writing. Since earning her Communications/Journalism degree from Santa Clara University, she has found the written word to be central in both professional and personal expression. As a mother she is inspired to explore the struggles and joys found in the ever-changing landscape of modern parenting. Her blog With Fail chronicles her journey as a writer. Angela is currently working on novel based on the remarkable life of her grandmother.