You’re listening to Parenting in the First Three Years, the place where we explore the strategies and soul of parenting from pregnancy through the first three years of life. I’m your host, Anne McKitrick. Thank you so much for joining me.
Hey there, and welcome to the podcast. I’m so glad that you’ve joined me. I have my good friend, Lenora Edwards, also known as the voice lady. Lenora is a communication coach, among many other very interesting things. We are going to talk today just about how important it is, the tone of voice that you use when you are setting limits with your children and how to use your voice as one of the tools.
For doing this, I thought she might really have a lot to say about this. And so I have invited her, to come in and talk about how we talk and how kids interpret it. So thanks, Lenore for being here. Thank you so much for having me again, and I love spending time with you. It is just an absolute delight.
And I do have a number of things to say, which is hilarious. So I love this topic. Yeah, no, I know. I can really think of a lot of different ways to go with this, just this thing, you know, just watching children’s faces as different adults talk to them to me is a fascinating thing to observe, you know, I’m curious about what’s going on in those little minds, the way that their faces respond, but let’s talk about voice inflection and how, how we communicate with it.
Our voice is such a powerful tool when we’re obviously when we’re communicating. What else is being communicated? So when we’re talking, we have 70 plus, now there’s a debate over how much percentage, 70 plus to 90 plus percent of what we’re communicating is non-verbal, which means it’s not the language, but it’s how we’re communicating those words.
That’s why our voice is so powerful. We are communicating not only with our energy. Our facial expression and our body language, it’s the tone of voice and infants very early on start to really understand the difference between angry voice. The difference between gentle voice, sing songy voice, there’s so much variation going on, and they do pick up on it.
So truly, what you say matters, but how you’re saying it matters more. Mm hmm. So, what are some things that you notice just as far as tone, you know, like volume and those kinds of things. For sure. And, depending on the age of the little one that we’re with, when you’re saying, okay, time to stop or stop, it depends on what the environment is.
If you’re. Three year old is going for the flame on the stove. Yes, you want to express immediate urgency and draw their attention. When we raise our voice and any time that impactful things happen, we’re getting, our brains are quite literally getting stimulated. So let’s say it’s a very urgent event of don’t cross the road.
What’s happening is that aggressive tone, and it is an aggressive one, it’s also a loud one, that we’re communicating is going straight to the amygdala, and when the amygdala, our fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response goes off, our ability to reason through anything Shut down adrenaline cortisol flood the system and we freeze in that moment in time.
Most often we freeze, but that’s what’s going on. And that is a good thing because we want them to stop and not cross the road or not touch the flame. Now, if it’s something there are some parents who feel that. They may have a short temper and they’ll tell me, well, I go zero to 70 or I go zero to 90 in two seconds.
And that’s something to be aware of because let’s say your child is playing with a toy and it might be one of those things where they’re just knocking something and it’s kind of starting to irritate you because you’re distracted by other things and we all have so many things going on. In that sense, to communicate firmness of I would like you to stop, verse, Can you stop that right now?
With that spike of extreme changes in your voice, they’re already calibrating to urgency, which is a great thing. When you’re telling them and you’re shouting, stop what you’re doing so they don’t cross the road, that’s a good thing. You’ve now helped them understand, don’t do that. When you start to have these extremes of changing your voice.
And it’s not urgent that you will actually start to understand to tiptoe around you and to be very careful and they will understand on a very deep visceral level. I have to be careful or I’m going to get yelled at. I have to be careful or I’m going to get in trouble and it breaks that trust. And they don’t know how to behave other than I need to be really, really careful to not upset them, to not get yelled at because they naturally don’t want to be yelled at.
So when we’re communicating boundaries of don’t cross the road or please stop doing that, it’s important that we are aware of that tone because what we’re communicating does impact them. You know, it’s interesting for one thing to me that with a really young baby, you know, that everybody speaks to the baby and just this, this kind of sing song, high pitched, simple words that accentuate the words that, you know, the baby needs to learn that way of talking that we call parent ease.
So they’ve, they’ve kind of become accustomed to this sweet way of talking. As they get older and a little bit more into things and, you know, maybe pressing people’s [00:06:00] buttons a little bit more, and then the, the words at them begin to sound very different. I think that’s a really interesting thing to be aware of.
And I think it’s, it’s fascinating that you say that literally their brain will kind of shut down and immobilize, which is a good thing if they’re running into the street, but what if they’re hearing that all the time? What’s happening in the brain? What’s happening in the brain is they’re learning. That they have to be very careful around you.
If you’re the one that’s shouting at them very, very frequently, or you’re constantly picking at them, criticizing them, and telling them, stop doing this, you’re being bad, they’re going to calibrate very carefully to not draw attention to themselves, and then they’ll start to be different when they’re in front of other people.
So, you may hear a teacher say, Oh, your child is such and such and you think, My child is doing this at home. What do you mean? It’s because how you’re communicating to them. And now keep in mind, we’re constantly communicating, constantly, we’re communicating with our energy and our facial expression and our eyes and how we, how quickly we move around somebody.
That is a communication. So, when children are being criticized with a specific person, They start to do their best to not draw attention because they keep getting that painful response from you. So they will act differently. They may even be more distant from you, especially when it comes to parent ease.
And, you know, parent ease is something that has fascinated me, especially how we talk to children. So For those of you who don’t know, there’s a difference between baby talk, which is, oh, you’re such a cute baby, wavy, wavy. And everything rhymes, and it’s very high pitched. And parentese, which also used to be known as motherese, when we’re holding you, and we’re rocking you, and we’re changing your diaper now.
What you’re doing is you’re narrating, but you’re narrating in a very melodic way and you’re adding emphasis and tone and it’s playful and that’s a good thing too because when they come into the world they have the ability to understand language. So that’s wired in, that’s a good thing, but they have no language.
It is up to the people in their environment to explain the difference between a spoon and a fork and what shirt on means and what shirt off means. It’s up to us. So as we’re doing that, even though you think my eight month old would have no idea, you know the difference between a cup and a ball and a teddy bear.
That’s, you’re right, they don’t, but that repetition of sharing that information, Oh, I’m going to give you your teddy bear in the crib and here’s your cup. That repetition of melodic intonation, that repetition of saying the words again and again is a great thing because babies are listening all the time and they’re growing all the time.
Those are neuropathways that are developing that you. They cannot get back. They are very, very active and they are growing actively, just like their body grows, their mind grows. And it’s important that we keep offering and encouraging language and teaching them how we have a back and a forth. So if you’re with your little one, you’re like, Oh, did you do that?
Uh huh. You did that. And pausing and letting them respond and seeing them engage and getting their facial expression and getting them to smile. Those are all part of language. And it’s such a good thing. Now the one thing that always shocked me was when children start to walk and, or when they start to crawl and then walk and they do these things, we’re clapping for them, we’re cheering them on, we are doing the hokey pokey celebration dance of all sorts.
Now when they start to move, then we start to yell. Don’t do that! Stop what you’re doing! But you just applauded me yesterday for this! How am I in trouble today? Boggles my mind. That’s true. That’s a lot to figure out for a little kid, isn’t it? Right. You know, the, the research on that whole serve and return is so fascinating and it starts so young, you know, like in the first months where just like you were just, you know, modeling, you’d say something and then you pause as if it were a real conversation.
Then you answer for the baby and then you pause and then you say your line and then you pause. And then eventually they’ll, you know, give a little bit of. Noise back in those pauses and you’re just teaching them to have a conversation. I think it’s really important just to note that when your baby makes a noise, especially in those very early months, that your response is teaching them about their ability to initiate a conversation with you and that your response is really important there.
Completely. And also not only when they respond. To actively engage it and, oh, yes, you’re right, whatever you’re saying, or just nodding acknowledgement is so important because they naturally want to be seen. They naturally want to be heard and they naturally want to engage with you. And it’s such an important thing to keep having that serve and return.
I love the way you said that it’s so important because this is what we’re teaching them. But also that’s communicating love. And affection and appreciation. Yeah, it’s communicating. You really matter to me. I want to hear your little noises. So what about a parent who maybe grew up in a home where this wasn’t a priority?
And they’re having to kind of learn to adjust their tone and their body language and to do this in a way that is helpful for their child. How do you help people learn this? I love to offer as much encouragement as possible and to really acknowledge the efforts that they’re making and to remind them that don’t have to be 100 percent perfect right off the bat and be that it is an evolution.
To try one thing at a time and focus on that, gain the skill and then go back for another skill. Because if you’re going to try and adjust 10 things all at once, you may frustrate yourself and then you’re not committing that attention to the specifics that you had wanted because you’re trying to focus on so many things.
And truly what happens is as you’re trying to make changes, as you’re trying to regulate your own emotions, It will burn up what I like to call self regulating units. Your ability to manage your state and to take a breath and to pause. It does start with a full tank at the beginning of the day, and then it goes down and down and down at the end of the day.
It’s very, very normal. And this is also why people will have like, Oh man, I’ve had a great breakfast today. I had a great dinner or I had a great lunch and then I ate a sleeve of Oreos. It’s because you are out of the tank that helps you regulate your emotions. So what I often encourage people to do is.
Change your posture, change your breathing. I know I mentioned this last time because when you can gain emotional control, you only help yourself, which ultimately helps you help others. And that’s a great. Yeah. Yeah. You know, something that’s kind of been in my vision lately is just the need to get up and move and shake, you know, and we do this with young children all the time, like in, in preschool programs, you know, you, you get all your wiggles out and all of those things.
But it really does help us grownups to, to move our bodies in different ways when we are needing to emotionally regulate or to kind of change our mind shift a little bit, you know? Absolutely. And it’s so interesting because I don’t know about you. I was not taught that when I was younger. No, I wasn’t either.
This was, this was not something we talked about when I grew up. And it wasn’t something that was being conversed about in schools or in any, by any grown up that I had known. These are all things that I started to learn when I was 21. Um, you know, truly understanding how to care for yourself beyond your basics.
Especially because sometimes the narrative… can be your woman, you take care of everybody else, you come last. That was a very strong cultural thing that I found in my generation is, no, you have no worries. You, it’s not about you. It’s about everybody else. Then you come last. Verse, what we now know, take care of you to take care of others, love yourself.
So the way you want to love others, you quite literally have to give yourself that attention and being able to pause and understand you have emotions and that’s a good thing. And you are giving yourself permission to acknowledge those emotions. I’m really frustrated right now and I need to go in the car and maybe just vent.
That’s a good thing because when we stuff it down, that causes a lot of. Uneasiness in our body. It causes us to stress more, have more anxiety. And then before you know what the diagnosis is, start piling up emotions and learning to understand your emotions and express them in a healthy way. It’s such an amazing skill to allow yourself to look into, to lean into and to explore.
Right. And finding the the right people to express those things too, you know, completely. We always wanna do that kind of processing with adults, not with our young children, and give them a big, heavy suitcase to carry around, which would be your emotional state. They need to not have to carry that around, you know, completely.
I remember whenever our kids were little, the, the thing that was being said out there amongst the moms was whenever I think I’m going to lose it, I’m going to take a time out. I’m going to take, put myself in another spot where I can take a breath and regain my composure before I come back and deal with whatever it is that’s been happening at the moment.
You know, that’s a great one. Absolutely. And that’s what I encourage all my clients to do when I work one on one, especially because. They’re also getting, and I know this word is getting a little overused in the culture, they’re quite literally getting triggered. From the things that their children are doing and it, it may be your child’s not listening to you.
It makes you feel not seen, not heard, not important, ignored, not enough. And then you feel like a bad parent and you go down this spiral of not being good enough. And it’s truly about getting to those emotional components of, ultimately, this is something that we learned that I’m not good enough. We did learn it.
How can we clear that? How can we maneuver that so that we have a different perspective, and also we realize that we are enough? And that us taking care and showing up to the best of our ability is enough. And that when we need that pause and that time out, that is important. And we give ourselves permission to do that.
And it’s much more than just, some people are phenomenal and they think, Yeah, I can do that, no problem. And they flip on a dime. I was not one of those people. I was one of those people that really would have an argument with myself. When I would say, I have needs and wants, I would hear in my head, nope, you should have no needs, you should have no wants, you need to put everybody else first.
That was an actual narrative that I had. And changing those voices in my head, changing that narrative. It was one of the best things I could have done for myself is literally learning how to manage my own voices, how to shift my own perspective. And it was such a powerful experience for me in helping myself.
I literally had a complete career change and this is what my specialty is now, helping people realize those voices and shifting them so that they are effective and that’s great. So I have one last question and that is like, if a person feels as if they have. Messed up, you know, they’ve, they’ve not controlled themselves.
What do you suggest that they do to make reparations with their child? What can you do? What’s a practical way to, to make it again? I’m so glad you asked that. I love that question. It’s something that I, I communicate with my clients on is acknowledging that. And not ignoring it because your child is now hurt by what you had shared.
You now feel bad and to brush it off. Well, I’m the parent. Well, you it tough. It doesn’t really resonate with them. And it’s also a great thing to acknowledge your child and say, you know, mommy, daddy, caregiver, they lost their temper. And I’m really sorry about that. I did not mean to hurt you. I do apologize and [00:19:00] letting them, when you do that, not only are you letting them know that they’re seen, they’re heard and they’re important, you’re also giving them permission to recognize.
When they have done something that they weren’t happy about. And to apologize about it. And that apologies aren’t a shameful thing, they’re not a guilty thing, they’re not a you did a wrong thing. It’s a true heartfelt, I did not mean to hurt you. I will do my best not to do it again. Completely. Bonding.
Completely. So I think even, even if your baby is tiny and you think, I don’t need to apologize to my five month old or my seven month old, I think it does that they some, you know, are able to feel and accept that. That’s very much, very much so, especially because even in, so we’re constantly communicating.
What you want to do as that parent is communicate that trust with your child and for you to even be able to turn and say, you know, I know my seven month old maybe didn’t really understand this, but I feel better knowing that I honored them. I respected them. I honored myself and I respected myself and that I didn’t brush it under the rug.
We’re going to make mistakes because thank goodness we’re human and that is a part of our evolution. The other thing is, is there are people who I do do very deep work with them and they remember events that they did not actually experience that they can actively consciously recall, but they remember events from one and a half and two years old.
And even though they didn’t consciously remember subconsciously, I was able to bring them back to that event. And help them resolve that stuck emotion because they’re getting it, they’re receiving it and to not clear it and process it in that important way. It carries on, even though, again, this is not something we were taught in our mainstream culture.
These are things that we’re learning as we’re having that deeper understanding of what it means to be human, what it means to be a parent, what it means to take care of ourselves. So do you think that in your research with this work, have you found that, or I guess it’s kind of hard to measure, but like if a parent does make this reparation with their very young child, Does the child not carry the weight of it anymore?
It’s not. Is it? I think that’s very personal and personable to that individual. What it does help do is it helps them both process it. And it’s a quite literal emotional connection. We can’t measure in the course. You know, how much, how much do I love you? How much do I trust you? We don’t have a measurement for that.
This is something we feel and we consider that energy. And when we say, I love you so much to somebody that is truly communicating. I appreciate you. I adore you. I have this amount of love and affection for you that I can’t literally show you. I can only express to you. So when we can process things that occurred.
That we’re not in alignment with that love and affection and appreciation good. Thing because it allows for us to clear that space so that we can continue to move forward in the way that we want to. Yeah, yeah, that’s really great. So these are really important things to keep in mind as we are just speaking to our children, especially, but speaking to anybody, but especially to our kids as we wrap up this conversation.
Do you have 1 last word of encouragement for folks? Uh, the last thing that I would say is. At the end of the day, and wherever you are at your day, remind yourself that you are always doing the best that you can be with the tools, time, knowledge, and energy available to you. If you could have done better, you would have.
And allow yourself permission to honor where you are, to respect where you are, and to do your best going forward. Great words. Thank you so much. Absolutely. Thank you so much. Bye everyone. Stay well. If you love today’s episode, take a minute and subscribe to our podcast. And one last thing, I’d love to pray for you and your baby.
If you’d like for me to, you can email me at ask at nurtured noggins. com. Your request can be as simple as just one word, or it can include an explanation. Either way, you can trust that I will pray for you. It’s a quiet, simple way that I can connect with you and your family and support you in your parenting journey.