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Listen to yourself talk – and think about what your tone is saying, as well as your words.

Listen to your tone instead of your words. At times, it’s not what you say, but the way you say it that makes an impact. Kids sense what their parents are feeling. Often, they’re not listening to your words so much as looking at your face and reacting to the tone of your voice.

Talk to your child as though you’re composing a song. ‘Parent-child communication is composed of both music and lyrics’, comments Michael Thompson. ‘When someone listens to music, he may focus on either the melody or on the lyrics. Children are always listening to the melody (or tone) of a parent’s voice. Unfortunately, we, the parents, are often paying more attention to our lyrics.’

Listen to yourself from your child’s perspective. If you feel a conflict brewing, ask yourself, ‘Would I like to be spoken to this way?’ If you don’t like the way you sound, ask yourself, ‘Am I mad about something without realising it?’

Your tone speaks louder than your words
If your tone and words are in sync, you are giving a clear message. If there is a discrepancy, your child might wonder, ‘What do you really mean?’ If you are saying angry words without emotional conviction, it’s confusing. Your child might wonder what is really bothering you.
– Susanna Neumann, PhD, child psychoanalyst consultant, Rockefeller University
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  • Last updated or reviewed 27-05-2010
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    © 2002-2006 Public Broadcasting Service. Reprinted from with permission of the Public Broadcasting Service.