Does What We Say To Our Children Matter?

by denny hagel on August 14, 2011

Do you feel confident that what you say to your children matters? No, this isn’t a trick question. In fact, it’s probably one of the most common topics parents contact me about, especially parents of pre-teens and teens.
  •  “Why don’t they listen?”
  •  “Do they even hear a word I say?”
  •  “I have told them repeatedly…”
  •  “They did exactly what I TOLD them not to do!”
  •  “We just had this conversation…”
  •  “They were given specific instructions…”
  •  “How many times must I say the same thing?”
  •  “I gave you my answer already.”
If you are like so many other parents out there these not only sound way too familiar but I would bet you could add a few more.The greatest source of frustration for parents is feeling that their children do not listen to them. The common mistake is in assuming that because you voiced your opinion or desire your children should respond appropriately. After all, you "told" them, right?
So the question is this, “Does what I say to my child matter?” And the answer is yes and no! Not what you wanted hear I’m sure.
Children are tuned in to all parts of us that play a role in how and what we communicate. They are keenly aware of our “moods” which reflect our feelings and very sensitive to our attitudes which reflect our thoughts.
The truth is that your words are only a small part of what you offer that impacts your children. And when the words you say do not match your attitude or mood (some refer to this as your vibration) your child will always choose to go with your feeling response or the vibration you send out.
An angry facial expression or a sarcastic tone in your voice will over-ride even the most loving words. Any form of negativity will cause a child to shut down…and the first thing to close will be their ears!

On the other hand, a calm, sincere loving voice delivering a message will draw them in and hold their attention. Remember the highly successful E.F. Hutton commercial?
Additionally, children learn from observing. What they see you do is far easier for them to grasp than what they hear you say. The fact that their ability to comprehend and process information is actually in process and not fully developed forces them to rely on what they see.
For example, parents who yell and scream when they are frustrated or upset will have a very difficult time convincing their children through words that they should not yell when they are upset or angry. It is quite confusing for them to “hear” you tell them not to yell and yet based on what they see, yelling and screaming goes along with frustration and anger.
The same is true when parents are not fully present when their child is sharing something important to them. They can sense they do not have your full attention; they pick up on the fact that you have other things on your mind. You may say “I am listening.” But their intuition tells them otherwise.
The messages you want to convey to your children must include modeling what you want to see in them and being sure your feelings and attitude (vibration) match the words you are using.
When dealing with pre-teens and teenagers having your words match what they see will give you far more credibility in their eyes. Today’s youth has by far grown beyond the “do as I say, not as I do” philosophy. In fact, raising children with this perspective has proven to have an enormous impact on the lack of respect they have for their parent’s opinions.
To effectively communicate with your children you need to be present, show them through your actions and reactions what you want them to know and look at your words as a tool for reinforcement and clarification.
Healthy effective communication is a learned skill. For the most part we communicate the way we saw the significant people in our lives while we were growing up communicate. And almost 100% of the time the misconception that communicating is merely saying what you want to convey is at the root of parent/child conflicts.
For this reason, I have written
"C.P.R. for Parents & Teens: Conflict Prevention/Resolution"
to provide you with the necessary skills to effectively communicate with your children in order to prevent and/or resolve conflicts.
You will also learn how to teach your children these skills as well! 
Don't let the title mislead you…this impact of this program is life-changing regardless of the age of your children.

In fact the earlier you begin the better!

Denny Hagel is a child advocate and parent coach, devoting over 25 years to the success and well being of all children. She is the published author of over 150 articles on parenting, many of which have attracted international attention in over 24 countries.

Denny was blessed with forward thinking parents who raised her with an understanding of her value as an individual, her innate power to choose by way of her thoughts, ideas, opinions and beliefs, thus, instilling in her a strong sense of personal responsibility for what happens in our lives

She is the founder of Awakened Parenting LLC, a company dedicated to helping parents release parenting paradigms of the past and consciously choose to raise their children to approach life with a positive mindset and strong sense of self. It is Denny’s passion to combine what she learned through her formal education in early childhood education and psychology and what her parents instilled in her and pass this on to all parents.

Denny has created the discussion group "Awakened Parenting Discussion Forum" on Face Book which now has nearly 600 members.  She does on line coaching with parents and teachers who consult her on a regular basis. Denny collaborates with counselors, authors, coaches and others working in the parent coaching field. Denny Hagel is the author of the newly published "The Missing Secret to Parenting", "The C.P.R. Program for Parents & Teens: Conflict Prevention/Resolution Formula", "Mini-Me Syndrome" and two free e-booklets Parenting Using the Law of Attraction and Becoming an Awakened Parent".


  • Olga

    The way we say it and in the attitude we say it makes such a big difference. We ourselves don’t want to listen to people that talk to us in the wrong way andwhen we sense they have the wrong motive behind it. Thanks Denny!

  • Wil

    Great reminder about communication with our kids. Mine are grown, but the need for communicating well does not dissipate. Thanks for the good advice.

  • Pat Moon

    A very good article and great advice.  Words matter – one of my hubby’s favorite saying.  I like to add:  actions and attitudes also matter.  This is important even when your children are 40 something and have children of their own.

  • Anonymous

    You are so right, Denny!  This communication thingy is a “learned” skill, and I have to admit, I am still learning!  Thanks, again, for such grounded advice!

  • Jen

    Great article Denny!  Thanks for sharing! 

  • AJ

    Great post Denny. Children are watching, listening, and feeling all kinds of things based on what we do, say, and feel.
    They are sponges, we must make sure we don’t add dirty water when they soak things up.

  • Tamarah Bartmess

    I’m practicing this one all the time!  Took a moment this morning to apologize to my 8yo.  Showing I value the relationship to take ownership for my weaknesses.

  • Anastasiya Day

    Great article! It is important to talk to our children and to know how to communicate with them.

  • Dee

    Denny, I love it and can totally realty to everything you say. If only we could teach this to more parents. I know that I am certainly growing as a parent (and a person) and my children are growing up to be wonderful people because I follow these effective communication models. Great work!

  • Dee

    Denny, I love it and can totally realty to everything you say. If only we could teach this to more parents. I know that I am certainly growing as a parent (and a person) and my children are growing up to be wonderful people because I follow these effective communication models. Great work!

  • Dee

    Denny, I love it and can totally realty to everything you say. If only we could teach this to more parents. I know that I am certainly growing as a parent (and a person) and my children are growing up to be wonderful people because I follow these effective communication models. Great work!

  • Elvie Look

    Do you know what I love about reading your articles??? You give examples, and not just one. For example at the start, you just don’t say a general statement like “it’s like talking into thin air when talking to kids” but you gave examples of things we likely have said  “Why don’t they listen?” “Do they even hear a word I say?” “I have told them repeatedly…” “They did exactly what I TOLD them not to do!” “We just had this conversation…” “They were given specific instructions…” “How many times must I say the same thing?” “I gave you my answer already.”
    That is what makes you such a great writer and teacher! Hugs Denny

  • Anonymous

    Awww thanks Elvie, you are so kind! :)

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Dee…sharing and inspiring as many parents as humanly possible is my passion! And it IS happening, more and more everyday! Life is good! :)

  • Anonymous

    High Five to you Tamarah!! Your children are blessed to have you! :)

  • Anonymous

    Well said AJ! Thanks for commenting!

  • Anonymous

    You are so welcome…you are not alone, we ALL are still learning! :)

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Pat, you are exactly right, this applies to communicating in general with everyone…it’s more than words alone!

  • Anonymous

    Healthy communication is the foundation of every successful relationship! Thanks for commenting!

  • Anonymous

    Exactly Olga!

  • Hughie Bagnell

    Denny…bang on! Thank you, Hughie

  • Michele M Tremblay

    What we say and how we say it both bring big lessons to our kids. The way I learned was watching my oldest son when he was less than one year old. When I saw him imitate me
    I got a very big lesson!

  • Anonymous

    Bravo Michelle! Your keen awareness and your willingness to see the power you had in his life is to be commended! When we see these things in our children it is often an opportunity for growth, we can either embrace it or reject it. Embracing it empowers our children! :)

  • Carol Giambri

    Great article Denny. I know I don’t do well when people are screaming at me.  I can only imagine the fear drilled into some kids by their screaming controlling parents is unbelievably sad. I have not seen it growing up but have experienced it outside my house.  My ears close up when screaming happens. I wonder if kids do to?  Great wisdom again shared.  Love reading it always.

  • Sandra Bueno

    Denny, you offer very practical and easy-to-understand advice on parenting.  I love the clarity with which you help recreate powerful paradigm shifts for parents to effectively and nurturingly use.  Thank you!

  • Donaldwells

    Powerful message Denny… so when is the webinar?

  • 9to5not

    Great stuff, Denny! I’m firmly rooted in the belief to be a PARENT 1st! My 16 year old son and 19 year old daughter are my buds now! When most parents have a hard time with their teens, we are having the best of times because the foundation was set from the start. They listen (most of the time) and I listen to them. It’s wonderful!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks! Love the pic…awesome family!

  • Anonymous

    I sooo appreciate your kind words and you taking the time to comment! Blessings~Sandra :))

  • Anonymous

    Great point Carol…As parents we need to be mindful to treat our children the way we wish to be treated! Thanks for sharing and caring!

  • Solvita

    I loved your article! Children are very sensitive and the way we communicate with them is so important, either verbal or non-verbal – they feel our emotions clearly…

  • Joanie McMahon

    Great pointers Denny ……… so true!

  • Nancy

    Hey, does this apply to how one should talk to their 4-month old kittens? I don’t think either one is listening to me… especially Molly. I try to show her by example not to climb on the kitchen table or push over the bedroom lamp, but she’s just not getting it!

    Seriously, great article, Denny.

  • Anonymous

    You are sooo funny! Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    Appreciate your kind words!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Donald! Great question!! Ha!

  • Lyndeutsch

    I love all your articles!  Excellent and relevant!

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