From last April's General Conference, I read Rosemary M. Wixom's talk, "The Words We Speak." I felt that this one applied the best to what I was trying to learn. This is something that I wish everyone would read.
Sister Wixom says that a child's belief in God and himself are formed early in life, and that we influence those beliefs by the words we speak. I can find examples of that in my personal life. I was always told that I was smart and beautiful, so I have never doubted it. But I did have a hard time as a teenager believing that I was likable because of comments that others made. In fact, it was so ingrained in my mind that I was grumpy and harsh that when my Dad said, within my hearing, "Alisa is really a very pleasant person to be around when she wants to be," I actually began to cry. When a college professor and my Grandma told me I had a pleasing personality, it turned my life around. Words ARE powerful.
Sister Wixom tells the story of Nephi and Lehi preaching to the Lamanites.When they were imprisoned, they were protected by God and their Lamanite captors heard the voice of the Lord. His voice was described as a voice of "perfect mildness." Sister Wixom pointed out that it was a voice that gave direction and hope, even while it was chastising.
That's the kind of voice that a parent should strive to have. I know that I have felt His voice before, and I know what Sister Wixom was talking about. But trying to do it myself is a little harder. Right now Little Pink Girl is pretty small and doesn't do anything bad intentionally, so it isn't hard to always be patient with her. She's about to learn to walk and talk and do all sorts of things. I'm sure it will only get more difficult, but I am going to strive to be that kind of a parent.
Sister Wixom tells us that children come to this earth ready to listen, and that to really speak to a child's heart, you need to know their needs. (This is probably why Heavenly Father can speak to our hearts at the right time and in the right way, always.) She suggests that we pray and seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost to know what our children really need. This reminds me of a quote from a letter to Joseph Smith to his wife, Emma:
"Be tender and kind to them; don't be fractious to them, but listen to their wants."
I had to look up the word fractious to know exactly what it meant. It means "easily irritated." Hmm. I know there are times when it is so easy to be irritated with our kids! But if we pay attention to their needs, we will be able to understand and reach them despite their behavior.
Something that Sister Wixom warned against was "benign neglect." She tells a story that is found in a Deseret News article, "Baby's development potentially harmed by parents texting." (It is definitely worth the read.) It talks about how parents' being distracted by social media might be the cause of an increase in developmental disorders. I know that I'm not the worst about this, but I do need to correct some problems.
Sister Wixom ends her talk by saying, "May the words we speak and writer reflect the love our Heavenly Father has" for our children. And I'd add that you should make sure your tone and facial expressions do the same thing, too!