A few weeks ago my mom (kindly!) suggested that I be mindful of how I say our son’s name. At first I thought, “What?! I say his name just fine!” But after setting aside my ego and denial, I decided to follow my mom’s advice.
Brian and I practice positive discipline and mindful parenting with our children. We try to be loving, encouraging, and consistent while focusing on “connection before correction” and being both firm and kind. So, much to my surprise and honestly, to my embarrassment, this is what I discovered:
I found that I used terms of endearment – like honey, sweetheart, baby, and love – when I felt connected to our son but often didn’t use his name. And when I was upset, I found that some times I would say his name in a tone that wasn’t too nice.
When I stopped to hear myself say his name in stressful times, I was like “How would I feel if someone said my name like that?! I’d feel sad and small.” Whoa. What a wake up call!
After getting over my paranoia that I had completely botched Erikson’s toddler stage of development, autonomy vs. shame with A., I started to really watch how I said his name – to be mindful of what my inflection and tone might be communicating to our three year old. More and more I am trying to consciously choose to say his name in such a way that communicates love and promotes connection.
Try this with your own children. Become aware of how you say their name. What does your tone communicate? Bring more kindness to how you say their name. Let your tone, inflection, and eye contact communicate regard.
What I’ve also noticed in this mindfulness practice is this: most often I’m not upset with our son. I’m tired and feel frustrated with not being able to control everything.
I’m anxious over trying to be and keep things perfect (a clean house, a well-behaved three-year old, etc. I know – GIVE IT UP!).
And really, I’m angry about how we parent in this country. We usually are living in our own homes, figuring things out alone or from some online chat group or parenting book by some “expert” rather than surrounded by extended family and other parents.
So really, many times, even if A. is whining, not listening or is demanding something, it’s not really that behavior that’s got me all miffed. It’s this other stuff. Eckhardt Tolle is right on, “We are never angry for the reason we think we are.”
So I’m grateful to my mom for pointing this out, even if I am embarrassed! I am grateful to be noticing how I say someone’s name and trying to choose to say it in a way that communicates, “I value you.”
So whether or not you have children, I invite you to be mindful for even just once how you say someone’s name – your child’s, spouse’s, friend’s, staff’s, etc. I’ll be curious to hear what you discover!
Thanks, mom! A lot can be communicated in one single word – a name.