What does your small voice say?
“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” — Peggy O’Mara
We all have a small voice. For our little ones, it begins with the development of conscience around age four as they enter their pre-school and kindergarten years. In other words, our kids begin to build their small inner voice that helps them to distinguish between right and wrong – and how they impact others. It starts to feel a little different now when they don’t tell the truth or they hurt the feelings of a friend.
As the small voice evolves, it becomes much more than just our conscience. It becomes the essence of our self. As adults, we can lose our sense of self in the complexity of our surviving-striving lives. We spend too much time listening to the unwanted voices in our head (e.g., voices of judgment, self-doubt and self-deception). But we have a choice. The voices in our head can help us reflect, imagine new possibilities – or they can create anxiety, criticize or limit our possibilities. The challenge is what voice will we consistently listen to . . . and which one will we develop?
We start with the notion that our small voice — is a combination of nature and nurture – capturing both our inborn personality and the wide range of social influences that shape how we talk to ourselves. How others talk to us can shape our small voice. But let this sink in for a minute:
How we talk to our kids will deeply shape their small voice for a lifetime.
Pause one more time and think about how your parents have influenced the voices in your head. While most children will experience the pull and tug of their small voice . . . too few will cultivate the inner reflection skills that are necessary to guide them through all stages of life. It is one of the most important skills that a parent can not only teach but also continue to co-learn with their child.
We learn to catch ourselves from over-correcting our children and instead ask . . . what does your small voice say you should do?
We think our first book, Small Voice Says, does three things:
It creates a powerful meme for parents and their young children to interact around. By asking “what does your small voice say” – the parent nudges the child inward to cultivate the small inner voice that will serve them for a lifetime. It allows parents to create a more nurturing relationship with their child – creating more opportunities for discussion (rather than telling and correcting). It helps to establish the identity of the young child – to help protect them from the many pressures to conform to the powerful images of popular culture and the “bigger voices” that surround them.
We cultivate our small voice over a lifetime
In our unending quest to find meaning in life, I am absolutely convinced that it would be linked in some big way to that small voice within . . . that inner voice that knows us best . . . that reflective self that stands separate from the other unwanted voices in our head . . . the voice that shapes how we show up in the moments that matter most.
As parents, I believe we have lost sight of this truth. Our not-so-hidden agenda is to create better versions of ourselves. The over-programming begins early and the damage is only enhanced by the false praise that often accompanies these efforts.
There is a simpler, more foundational path. Breathing more deeply. Pausing more routinely. Loving more lovingly.
We also learn to silence the voice of the doubt and the critical self that can rehash and overthink our problems to the point where they become us. Instead we learn to listen and lean into our gut more often. We learn to cultivate a meaningful mindfulness that emboldens the self.
Our small voice begins living and leading from a place that is more convicting and compassionate than the traditional default of our fragile and conflicted egos.
We are now ready to parent. Ready to listen more to our kids. Ready to hear what our . . .
Small voice says.