“Watch your tone of voice, young lady!” This was an admonition I frequently heard growing up – and my mother said it in a FIRM tone of voice. Many of us learned in Psychology 101 that a key to effective communication is understanding how communication works. Studies have shown that only 15% of what we communicate verbally is from the actual words we say. That means 85% of communication comes from facial expressions, emphasis, body language, and tone of voice. (It makes me wonder about those who communicate primarily with texting.)
What does this mean to us as mothers? I learned an important lesson from our son when he was about 8 years old. I was busy asking our four children to help get the house picked up for a home group meeting. I was giving directions and Benjamin asked me “Why do you always talk to me in a mean voice and Abi in a nice voice?” It stopped me up short – I realized he was absolutely right! In asking my children to clean up I communicated impatience and aggravation to my oldest child and patience and grace to the youngest. “CLEAN UP RIGHT NOW!” spoken harshly and with a stern look on my face communicates something very different from “Clean up right now” said more softly and with a smile. Same words – different meaning. I had developed a pattern of speaking harshly to my oldest because I expected more from him. That in itself was not a bad thing, he WAS older and I could reasonably expect more from him at 8 years old then from his little sister who was 4. Yet I was communicating impatience and aggravation to one child and patience and grace to another for the same behavior! How willing to obey can we expect our children to be when we speak to them in that way? I asked our son for forgiveness and told him I would try to talk to each of our children the same. I started talking mean to his little sister as well! No, just kidding. It was a struggle, but I began working on using a tone of voice that communicated love and grace even when I had to be firm.
Ephesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” What a great verse for mothers! I like how the Amplified translation words the last part – “but only such speech as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others….that it may be a blessing and give grace to those who hear it.”
Words of kindness are a source of healing and that is so important when our children are hurt by the mean words of others. Our children’s speech often reflects our speech. How many of us have been embarrassed to hear our child speak a certain word only to realize they learned it from us! This is true of the tone of voice as well. The way we speak to our husbands will be the way our children learn to speak to their father. They will mimic our tone of voice. May we learn to reflect the love and respect that God holds for each of us when we speak to our husbands and children.