Do your kids hear voices? Of course they do. They hear your voice. What you say to them — especially what you say repeatedly — lodges in their brain and echoes at key moments throughout their lives. In time, the words that originally were yours will come to seem to them so familiar — so automatic — that they won’t differentiate between your words and theirs. As psychologist Becky Kennedy says, “Our voice to our kids becomes their voice to themselves.”i It’s a serious responsibility and a powerful opportunity, shaping our children’s thoughts through the questions we ask them.
Many of us are squandering the opportunity.
Consider, for instance, what many of us say at the end of our kids’ school day. “How was school?” Predictably, they deliver “Good” or “Fine.” Not really much of an answer… but it’s not much of a question.
Imagine if you asked your kids, “Who did you help today?” Now that’s a question! Consider the message embedded there, how it conveys the importance of giving to and helping others. If that’s something you want your kids to embrace, then regularly asking “Who did you help today?” would be a powerful way to instill that value. In time, your voice (in the form of your question) would become their own inner voice, reminding them of the importance of supporting, assisting or giving to others.
Think about the core character values that you most cherish as a parent. Kindness. Responsibility. Fairness. Patience. Honesty. Caring. Generosity. There are questions you can ask your children that will place core values firmly on their radar as part of what guides them through life. Here are several possibilities:
“How were you brave today?”
“Who were you especially kind towards today?”
“When did you practice patience today?”
“How were you generous today?”
In so many ways our sons and daughters are influenced by forces in the culture that we have little to no control over. Exploit your own influence by making it a practice to ask your kids questions that will implant the sound of your voice into their brains and aim them towards embracing the traits of fine character that you want them to live by.
i Kennedy, Becky. “Bringing out the good in kids—and parents.” Re:Thinking podcast. February 14, 2023.