Since having a baby, I’m increasingly grateful that my husband and I are so aligned in our values—including how we live, speak, and relate with our daughter. We have both been intuitive since we were 14, and meditating or chanting since our 20’s.
Because we have done so much inner work on ourselves and are so aware of our baby, we see so clearly how the subtle messages she receives affect her. I have actually heard that the programming a child receives up until age 2 will impact their life more than anything they hear from that age on. Wow!
So I decided to write down some of our communication guidelines, so we can share them with anyone else who takes care of her. Whether you have children or are just curious about how our speech affects us, I share this here in case it assists you.
Of course, if these ideas are new to you, be gentle with yourself. This is what we aspire to, and still the most important thing is that we’re in a state of love, modeling that for our children.
1). I replace judgment with acknowledgment. By “judgment” I mean either praise or criticism. For example, if Azadeh finishes her food, I don’t say “Good girl.” I might say, simply, “You finished your peas.”
Most of us adults are desperate for someone to just be present with us! So it goes along way to just express what’s happening without putting my label on it.
We generally avoid the words “good,” “bad,” “right” or “wrong.”
2). If I have a preference, I state it as such rather than as “the way it ‘should’ be” or “the truth.” In the above example, that could be, “I’m so happy you finished your peas!” Or, “I feel sad when I see you cry” instead of “Don’t cry.”
3). When the baby cries, assume she has a need or at least needs to express herself. It’s so easy, especially as a new parent, to get triggered by a baby’s crying. I think it touches something very primal in us, and we sometimes want it to stop at any cost. But I have heard well-meaning caregivers say things to babies that disturb me, like:
- “What’s wrong?” Again we minimize the word “wrong” because it implies a judgment.
- “I don’t believe a word you’re saying.” How would you feel if you were crying and someone said that to you?
Instead of the above, we say things like:
- What are you feeling?
- What do you need?
- I hear that you’re really upset right now.
In some cases, of course, I hear Azadeh’s need but I am not able to meet it in the moment. For example, when I’m driving and she cries to be held or to eat, I tell her I need to keep driving and for everyone’s safety I cannot hold or feed her the second she wants me to. Sometimes, depending on the situation, I choose to stop and take care of her, and sometimes I need to keep explaining that I hear her and I’ll take care of her in 10 minutes, or whatever I can do. Then…
4). I am consistent and accountable. If I tell her I’ll feed her in 10 minutes and I take 20, she won’t trust me. Of course, a newborn doesn’t watch the clock, but they feel everything, especially our lack of integrity when our words don’t match our actions.
I have had to really get on top of my game! It may sound ridiculous, but if I say “I’m going to the bathroom and I’ll be right back,” and then I go text a friend, get some water, brush my teeth, and go to the bathroom, she cries.
So I tell her everything I’m doing. It takes the same amount of time but since I own it, she feels safer and cries less.
5). I talk with her before I touch her or need to do something that affects her. I say things like, “I’m gonna pick you up,” or “I’m gonna turn on the blender now and you’ll hear a loud noise for a minute.” Even though she doesn’t know all these words, she feels respected and eventually, starts to learn certain phrases.
If there is something I would like to do but don’t need to do, I ask her. “Would you like to go outside?” “Do you need a diaper change?” (In the event I don’t know the answer)… Then, I pause and listen for her response. It may be a nod, a frown, a picture in my mind or a loud thought in my head. Then, I acknowledge and consider her reply as I choose my actions.
6). Where possible, I replace the word “no”. This is to honor her creative spirit, to encourage her natural tendency to see life as expansive and the world as friendly. Sometimes we need to set limits or give direction, but this doesn’t need to be done with the edge and constriction that the word “no” often carries.
For example, if she wants to put a shoe in her mouth, I’ll just say, “Let’s keep the shoes on the floor,” and I’ll give her a teething ring. If she starts to crawl towards the edge of the bed, I’ll say, “That’s your boundary,” and I’ll guide her back. “Boundary” is our new favorite word. 🙂 When there is a safety issue and a strong statement is needed quickly, I say, “stop”. And I speak from my belly in a full voice, to show I mean business!
7). I model the behavior I’d like to see. This can be tough! My habit of brushing my teeth while checking email or running around the house was never ideal, but now that I know she copies what I do, I am motivated to change it. If I don’t want her doing it, I don’t do it in front of her—to the best of my ability.
8). When there is a need for discipline, I emphasize cause and effect. Again it’s not “right” or “wrong,” but I prefer she doesn’t throw her sippy cup on the floor when she’s in her high chair. Rather than tell her “no,” I acknowledge what happened. “Your sippy cup is on the floor.” And I refrain from picking it up right away, so she “gets it.” They say children under 7 don’t understand reason, but they do get cause and effect.
9.) I allow her natural creativity rather than over-stimulating her. I admit it, it’s easy and fun to cover a baby in belly kisses, bounce her around and make silly faces and noises.
Once in awhile, I think it’s ok. As our usual means of relating, I think it sets up a pattern where she gets used to looking outside herself for stimulation. Adults with this pattern develop addictions and feel insecure.
We want her to feel self-assured, while knowing someone is always present if she has a need. So we observe more and intervene less. A baby is already so curious, and just our everyday world is incredibly stimulating to them. We do read stories and sing songs. But I don’t think babies need TV, a bunch of toys, or for us to entertain them.
What a wonderful world having a baby has opened up! I am thankful to her for showing me how to be more conscious. It reminds me of how I can treat everyone, even myself, with more respect and encouragement.