And I don’t mean a nice one or a mean one.
I mean the tone that mother’s use when talking to their kids. Or anyone else’s kids for that matter. It’s an authority thing.
A former co-worker of mine told me a story once about how his wife noticed a couple of guys moving a barbecue from the back to the front yard of a house across the street from theirs.
She didn’t recognize them and she thought they were up to no good, so she marched across the street and, in her most authoritative mother voice, called out, “Where do you think you’re going with that barbecue, young man? Both men stopped and put the barbecue down. They looked like two naughty children who had been caught with their hands in the cookie jar.
Turned out, they were friends of the guy who lived in the house and they were setting up for a backyard party.
What is it about that tone of voice that stops people in their tracks? Flashbacks to their childhood and their mothers catching them doing something they weren’t supposed to be doing?
Along that same vein, the other day I realized that I rarely speak to my kids in the same tone that I use with everyone else.
I realized this because I said something to my daughter in the exact same tone that I speak to her father (regular adult conversational tone) and she sat right up, paid attention and had a big, long conversation with me.
The topic was nothing special. But had I approached her in my usual, reserved-for-kids, sugar-coated tone, my guess is she wouldn’t have become so engaged.
I treated her like a person, instead of a child who needs to be talked down to.
Because that’s what I realized about my tone. It’s patronizing. I don’t mean to speak in a patronizing way. But it stems from how I started talking to my daughter when she was very little.
It might have been OK when she was under 2 years old. But at 5, it doesn’t cut it anymore. And I’m realizing the same thing with my son.
Address them in my normal tone of voice (use the mother authority tone when needed to keep them safe and out of trouble) and they will engage with me on a more mature level because they feel that I’m not talking down to them.