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The Father’s Voice (do over) June 22, 2006

Posted by fajita in family, Fathers, Parenting.
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The Father's Voice

Jonesboro Sun

24 June 06


There is power in a father's voice. Power? Is that the right word? Maybe it is. Depth. Meaning. Richness. Influence. Whatever the right word is, the meaning is the same: a father’s voice can penetrate to the very depth of his child’s soul. His voice is amazingly influential to his children, and something that is very hard to shake when that child grows into an adult.


Of all of the contributors to a child’s identity formation, whether it be genetics, socialization, media, friends, education, the father’s voice can and often does trump them all. Yes, sometimes even genetics.


Think about it, if the father has been around at all in the child’s life, his voice becomes synonymous with many things. It becomes a symbol that means something, no matter what words are uttered – kind of like a red octagon means stop even if the word, “stop” is not printed on it. A father’s voice, the very sound of it, will bring about the emotional assumptions that the father has taught the child from the very beginning.


His voice might be synonymous with punishment or discipline. Or maybe it registers as generous and gentle. It could be that voice triggers fear of deception or rejection. But maybe the voice builds confidence. Whatever the case, there is a point in the child’s life when the words spoken by the father mean almost nothing because the weight of his voice crowds out all other meanings.


For example, when the father’s voice has been harsh, demanding, judgmental, and unapologetic day in and day out, then an apology in his voice is not likely to hold much water. If the voice has been one voice sober and another voice drunk, then the child learns good dad/bad dad and never really believes a word good dad says because bad dad shows up drunk or violent or cruel.


On the flip side, a consistently generous, kind, and gentle voice will lend credibility to an apology when the father does blow it. “Of course he means it,” the child will instinctively understand, “because he is good.”


Now let’s get back to identity formation. If that voice, whether it be good or bad, is bouncing around in the kid’s heart and heart when they arrive at the point in their life when they are asking themselves, “who am I?” naturally that fatherly voice will have an impact. Every child wonders if he or she is just like dad or mom.


What a tragedy if that child had a harsh and violent father and comes to the conclusion that, although that child despises what her father has done, she is just like him. Conversely, what a wonderful legacy the good father has when his child decides that she is just like him, generous, kind, and forgiving. 


So father’s when you communicate with your children, it is always important to recognize that your words and your tone make meaning inside your child’s head and heart. They are not merely learning about you and who you are, but even more deeply they are learning about themselves and who they are. Whatever you give them, they will believe that they deserve it – no matter what is really true. You see dads, you are creating their truth with your voice.


But the impact goes even beyond how the child views their own father and themselves, the father’s voice has implications for how the child will view the world around him. How will the child understand authority? How will the child work with other people? How will the child get what he or she wants in social, work, and peer relationships? How will the child negotiate? How will the child deal with his or her limits when those limits are reached?


Fathers, you may not be perfect, cool, or smart, but none of that matters. You have a voice. Use it to love your kids.



The Father’s Voice June 20, 2006

Posted by fajita in family, Family Science, Fathers, Parenting.

There is power in a father's voice. Power? Is that the right word? Maybe it is. Depth, meaning, richness, influence. I'm not sure where I am going with this, but I am using the word power to make my point.

I've been getting my daughter up in the mornings. A little back rub, soft tones and a little, "Hey sweetie, it's morning time. It's get up time."

Sierra turns, sometimes pulling her pillow over her head.

"Do you need one more minute or two minutes?"

Ah, the illusion of choice. She always chooses two minutes. She has been known to negotiate four minutes at times, but rarely.  

I come back ten minutes later and then she is ready to get up.

Well, one morning I was in a bit of a hurry and didn't give her the minutes and didn't rub her back and didn't use the soft tones.

"Sierra, time to get up, come on, it's morning and we need to get moving."

I was a bit abrupt, but not mean or mad or anything.

Well, she got up and went about her day and I went about mine. That night whe I was tucking her in and saying prayers, she says, "Dad, can I ask you a question?"

"Of course, punkin."

"Why did you use your stern voice this morning?"

"Well, I was in a hurry."

"I thought you were mad at me all day."

That is the point where my heart sank. My daughter thought I was mad at her for an entire day. I wasn't mad, not in the least. However, I had set up an expectation and then violated that expectation. It was my voice that she was responding to more than anything else.

I made sure she knew that I was not made at her, that she was not in trouble, and that she did nothing wrong. I apologized.

This exchange taught me the power of my voice in my daughter's life.  I broke it down like this:

Words: The actual vocabulary matters when talking to a child. It's not about not cussing; it is about affirming words.

Tone: Words are lost in tone. Kind words in a rough tone have little meaning. In fact, it's worse than saying nothing because the nice words with a rough tone is a mixed message? Does daddy like me or doesn't her?

Expectation: Words and tones consistently used to build expectation are powerful. When we did our routine every morning, she came to expect it and actually count on it. When we did the routine, she knew everything was OK between us. When we broke the routine, it shook her confidence.

Father's your voice matters. Mother's your voice matters, too, of course. But today was a message for fathers.