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Talk like a composer

13 April
Posted by:
Michael Grose

Here’s a challenge.

Listen to yourself talk to your children for an hour. Take note of the words you choose but, more importantly notice the tone of your voice. Does your tone match your words, or is there a mismatch?

Children tune into tone of voice as much as the words. Toddlers learn from the tone of your voice whether you are pleased or mad at them. The words matter little as their vocabularies are developing but the tone of your voice, which matches the look on your face, conveys the message.

Children will often ignore the words if they are not matched by your tone of voice.

“Put your toys away, please and come to the table” which is simple instruction can be said a number of ways.

If your tone is whiny then you are indicating that you don’t expect your child to comply. You are teaching your child to ignore you.

If your tone is aggressive then you are issuing a challenge to disobey, which some kids just can’t resist.

If your tone is friendly yet firm then it matters what words you use. Your chances of getting cooperation will increase dramatically if expectation is conveyed respectfully and happily.

Tone of voice indicates mood & intent.

Kids are natural mood detectives. They constantly have their radars up detecting the mood of their parents. It is a useful skill that prepares them for pre school, school and life beyond.

However if their home environment is chaotic or dangerous then all their energy is taken up checking the moods of the adults in their lives, which is not in their best interests. These children are often highly stressed and anxious.

Communication between parents and kids is like a song - made up of lyrics and music. A good composer attends to both the lyric and the tune. He or she will make sure the tune matches the words. Romantic lyrics are amplified by a soft, slow melody.

Kids will attend to the melody (tone) of your voice rather than the lyric (words).

Most of us focus on the lyric (words) rather than the melody (tone) when we speak to our kids.

Get a mismatch and we either teach our kids to tune out or we will confuse them, and they may wonder what is wrong with us or them.

Think like a composer next time you have something important to say or just want to make sure you get through to kids– i.e. focus on the melody (tone of voice) as much as the lyric (words you choose).

Get the match right and your communication will improve out of sight.

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