The Parenting Coach: Name That Tone: It’s Not What You Say, But How You Say It

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It’s been said that as much as 90 percent of the meaning transmitted between two people in face-to-face communication is nonverbal. Intuitively, we all know that; having spent our entire lives attempting to effectively convey our thoughts and accurately understand those of others. However, when it comes to our kids, the tone of our voice often plays a particularly prominent role in the message we are trying to communicate. With that in mind, let’s try a little exercise.

Using the innocuous word ‘SNAILS’, try repeating it out loud using the following tones of voice.

Snails. (Pride)

Snails. (Disgust)

Snails. (Anger)

Snails. (Unconditional Love)

Snails. (Disappointment)

Snails. (Judgment)

Snails. (Disinterest)

This simple exercise highlights the strong impact our tone has on our words. What we say is almost less important than how we say it. Consider some of the typical comments we make to our kids.

“Why did you do that?”

“Put those away.”

“Did you clean your room?”

“Don’t play with your food.”

Just reading these comments, it is easy to hear the underlying tone. Now, by only changing your tone, try repeating these comments with the intention of changing their meanings.

Garnering respect and cooperation from our kids begins with modeling those qualities. This week, challenge yourself to pay attention to the tone of your voice when you are talking with your kids. How do they respond to your requests? Consider what the impact might be if you were to change it up a bit. When kids feel respected, they will respond with respect and you will find that their level of cooperation increases significantly.

© Gila Brown, 2009

Gila Brown, M.A. is a Child Development Expert and Parent Coach, with over 10 years of teaching experience. She specializes in parenting school-age children with grace, using principles of attachment parenting, positive discipline and effective communication. Visit to sign up for a free newsletter.

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Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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