THE MAMA MANTRAS: Raise Your Words, Not Your Voice

By Sydney Dorr

Happy Thursday, Beautiful!

This week’s Mama Mantra is: “Raise your words, not your voice.”

A little glimpse into my latest grocery run demonstrates why I need this mantra. I was determined to patiently hold it together. My boys were determined to unleash a morning’s worth of pent-up energy. Calmly reviewing the rules, I reminded them that obeying meant getting to walk, disobeying meant riding in the cart. Distracted nods, mumbled “Ok’s.” Good enough, let’s do this. The boys were crazy but I didn’t yell, instead hauling miscreants in and out of the cart with a lowered voice and rising blood pressure. Then we got to the parking lot. My patience suddenly snapped like a KitKat and we all quickly spiraled into chaos, throwing tantrums left, right and center. At one point driving home, Caleb was laughing maniacally at Gideon while Gideon screamed at him to stop and I was hollering futilely over my shoulder “EVERYONE STOP TALKING! NO MORE WORDS UNTIL WE GET HOME. DO YOU HEAR ME? NO – MORE – WORDS!” Facepalm.

The mantra is a part of a larger quote by Rumi, a 13th century Persian poet: “Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows the flowers, not thunder.” Mic drop. I’ve got a few things that I’m growing in these years with littles. I’m cultivating a close relationship with my sons, speaking identity over them. I’m tending a crop of patience in my home. I’m trying to raise outspoken and passionate boys into men who can express emotions and opinions with clarity and compassion. Thunderstorms in the car grow exactly none of these.

Thankfully, since 3/4ths of the people in my house like to yell, there are lots of opportunities for me to practice raising my words and teaching my co-yellers to follow suit. As you might have deduced from the above slice of life, Caleb is a bit of a pot-stirrer (I’m sure it’s some kind of spiritual gift in process). When life seems tame, he likes to liven things up by harassing his big brother. Chasing, grabbing toys, name-calling – lots of thrills. Gideon responds in kind. The skirmish escalates and pretty soon the house is a war zone; threats and insults flying fast, both trying to outdo each other in inflicting bodily harm. Pot: stirred. Mom: frazzled, approaching furious.

“HEY!” I ferociously bellow, the combat raging on undiminished. Rumi whispers in my ear “Raise your words, not your voice.” Fine. I approach the battlefield. “Boys, what’s the problem?” Recriminations and tears flood out. “Gideon, if you don’t like what Caleb is doing then say ‘Caleb, I don’t like that. Please give me space.’” He grudgingly complies. “Caleb, if Gideon doesn’t like what you are doing, you need to stop. We want to honor and love each other. If you want to play with Gideon then ask him what he wants to do.” He cheerfully agrees and they carry out a mostly civil conversation guided by yours truly.

It takes a lot longer than shouting “NO MORE WORDS!” But my ultimate goal isn’t silence. My goal is connection through effective communication. And miraculously (or predictably), it works. Of course, I have to repeat the process 10 minutes later. But sometimes Gideon will voluntarily say “Caleb, I don’t like that, please stop” before he yells. And sometimes I raise my words 20 times before I raise my voice even once. That’s growth, people.

What do your kids do that makes you ram into full thunderstorm mode and then later cringe with embarrassment? Don’t worry – you aren’t alone. I’m over here embarrassing myself in the WinCo parking lot with the best of them. But if our words have to be shouted to be heard, we probably need better words. We need words that water by asking questions, explaining emotions, offering solutions. Raise your words, not your voice and watch your garden grow.

Whitney Parnell1 Comment