One of the most important psychological factors in raising a family is giving children a ‘voice’.
What is meant by ‘voice’?
The fact that a child is given a voice makes them confident that they will be heard and that they will have an impact on their environment in general. Exceptional parents grant a child a voice equal to theirs the day that the child is born. They respect that voice as much as they respect their own.
How can one give a child a ‘voice’?
There are three rules to follow:
1. Assume that what your child has to say about the world is just as important as what you have to say.
2. Assume that you can learn as much from them as they can from you.
3. Enter their world through play, activities, discussions: don’t expect them to enter yours in order to make contact.
It is not easy to follow these ‘rules’. Parents who are still trying to make their own voices heard due to injuries from their past are often unable to do it without any help.
Indeed, they are likely to impose their voice and demand from their children that they listen to them. If one listens to the subtext of these parent-child relationships it becomes clear that the child is taking care of the parent. Sometimes, the child feels like a prisoner because they cannot say what they really feel, only what their parent wants to hear.
Children who have never been given the chance to develop a ‘voice’ act out in any way they deem fit; they build walls around them or take drugs as a means of escapism because they feel all alone in the world and the anxiety and/or depression they feel as a result of all this is sometimes not only unbearable but it can be devastating too.
The most important job in the world, although very difficult, is when you have an untrained person to act from an untrained position.
It is extraordinary that the most important job in the world, raising a child, is considered as an untrained position, although some people may think that it is something automatic.
Many parents deceive themselves about the quality of their parenting skills. Parents sometimes compare themselves favourably to their own parents and, indeed, they often do a better job but what is often necessary is not just doing a better job but stepping out of the box and seeing the parenting role in a completely different way. Very few parents can do this on their own.
The crucial age for child development is between one month and six years- Emma De Lucca
This is why counselling is so essential to many parents and parents-to-be. Clients often learn that their own voice was not heard and they find themselves struggling to regain agency by having their children listen to them. Tragically, this ‘backwards parenting’ can be passed on from generation to generation, in some cases it can also result in mental issues.
It is important to start applying the above rules from the moment of birth. A child begins to learn the different voices heard early in life and if the critical period passes and the sense of agency has not developed, it is difficult and sometimes impossible to restore. The ensuing panic, hopelessness and aloneness can last an entire lifetime.
Much of the therapeutic work done involves the exploration of voice loss or
unrealised empowerment in childhood.
The crucial age for child development is between one month and six years; these are commonly known as the ‘imprinting stages’; what is learnt during these years will determine the level of intelligence and the various skills we acquire and use in later years.
What do children with a ‘voice’ look like?
They have a sense of identity that belies their years. They stand up for themselves when necessary. They speak their mind and are not easily intimidated. They accept the inevitable frustrations and defeats of life with grace and keep moving forward. They are not afraid to try new things or to take appropriate risks. People of all ages find them a joy to speak to.
If parents do not enter a young child’s world but, instead, insist that he or she enters theirs to make contact, is often the resulting damage that ensues and which can actually last a lifetime.
When speaking of ‘voicelessness’ the child presents one way in which adults react having experienced this scenario in their own childhood. They constantly try to re-inflate their leaky ‘self’.
However, different temperaments are affected in making the different adjustments and some children do this of their very nature. They are incapable of aggressively seeking attention. If no one is entering their world, they unconsciously employ a more passive strategy. They diminish their voice and try to please their parents with their lack of demands.
As adults, such people are gentle, sensitive and non-assuming. They are also generous and caring, often volunteering for charitable organisations, animal shelters and the like. Frequently, they feel other people’s pain as if it were their own and are wracked by guilt if they cannot somehow relieve this distress.
To most, they seem model human beings. Unfortunately, these qualities are the direct result of having little or no ‘voice’ and their voicelessness can cause them considerable pain.
Every parent should strive to give their young child a voice. Look at yourselves honestly: if you can’t follow the three rules, get help as soon as possible. It is not shameful. With hard work, you can break the intergenerational cycle and give your child (and, ultimately, their children) this wonderful gift.
We, as adults, know that giving children a ‘voice’ is a child’s basic human right which they deserve. As they grow older, they will learn the duties and responsibilities as well as their rights to a better extent, making them better citizens in future.
Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.Support Us