A mother is a child's inner voice
If you are a happy individual yourself, you need not be extra cautious while talking to your child. But if you are not, be the change you want to see in your child tells Yog Maya Singh.
You can take the child out of the mother, but you can never take the mother out of the child. The mother sits inside you like the little voice you have so far been calling your inner voice. (Consciously mull over this and see how similarly your mother and your inner voice talks). At the conscious level, a child’s outer voice ‘might’ be the blend of the father as well as the mother’s voice and maybe her favourite celebrity’s mannerisms or the mannerisms of someone she looks up to in school or among relatives, but deep down, the subconscious voice (that is why it is called the inner voice) always belongs to the mother. Not only this, but the child also picks up vibes from the mother. Thus non-verbal communication or even how the mother’s self-talk is, determines the quality of the child’s inner voice.
The voice speaks the same to both boys and girls, but girls take the inner voice much more seriously and listen to it more intently than boys. Since boys live less in their head and more in their bodies in comparison to girls, the inner voice has a stronger hold on the minds of girls and therefore contributes more in shaping their personalities. Science says women have more grey matter while men have more white matter in their brains, which means that on an average, a woman thinks more than a man, which in turn again implies that the inner voice is more active in girls than in boys. Earlier girls/women used to be heart-centred believed in listening to their intuitions and gut feelings, but since our current education system focuses majorly on the sharpening of the mind and doesn’t do much to soothe the heart, more and more women are losing touch with their instinctive, intuitive side. Men take their decisions logically, while women take their decisions instinctively. If you are among the lucky ones whose mothers were not critical or disapproving or disrespectful in your childhood, your hearts are already strong and you make decisions that are taken more keeping your own happiness in mind, rather than taking a decision in order to please your parents or society in general.
However, those who have had to deal with critical mothers have a critical inner voice, and most of their important life decisions (especially who to marry, which profession to choose etc.) backfire, because the inner voice has always sounded like: ‘Hey, why can’t you do anything right?’ or ‘You are a very difficult child to handle’. My mother would often say sarcastically to me as a child (because I was an inquisitive child and always asked for the logic behind a rule if my mother wanted me to follow them). Basically, she meant I would bring sadness and darkness to whichever house I would get married in. I knew it was meant sarcastically because I could see the anger on her face and ultimately I started believing I was a difficult child and no guy would want to marry me and my in-laws would find me difficult.
Children with critical mothers often take decisions keeping the happiness of others at the centre rather than themselves. They turn into people-pleasers and are scared to upset the social order. Or on the other extreme, they might become downright rebellious. Their main aim remains to please their mothers in the end (consciously or subconsciously) so that the inner voice can speak softly and soothingly to them. But until there has been hard work on the part of the mother, it is the child who has to turn the critical inner voice in his her favour or turn that voice into an entirely positive one. Slowly, as we begin growing up, we become like our mothers unless we either do intensive inner work or take the other approach and genuinely focus on having our brand of fun.
In the name of gender equality, we are veering more towards gender-neutrality, and that doesn’t bode very well. I am a huge supporter of gender-equality but not gender neutrality. We need some semblance of the structure of femininity and masculinity to hold our identity. I say this because women need more care and attention and love if they have suffered from being continuously criticised as a child. It is they who will give birth to the next generation, and it is important that their inner voice is pleasant, motivating one so that it is not passed on to the child and so that the circle of self-sabotage and self-hate or non-acceptance of the self can be broken. Happy children are the foundation of a happy society.
Now, how do you change that critical voice and make it an ally in your life journey rather than your enemy or frenemy? A friend you can trust blindly. You can do this by ‘unlearning’ things about yourself that it has told you to make up your personality and take out time to be with yourself and figure out who you are. Find your voice. You are not who that voice makes you out to be. You are stronger, smarter, more beautiful and loved than what that voice tells you. Believe me, your voice is there. It will be weak at first because it has been ignored for so long, but then as you start listening to your own unique desires more, it will grow stronger. I have been told it’s always my fault whenever a problem occurs in my house. My mom, like many political leaders, we know, thinks she is never wrong. She makes no mistakes according to her. Thus, it has become a habit of mine to hold myself responsible even if things are wrong outside my house, with my friends, at work. I find it difficult to believe I can be right too. Despite being a highly creative person, I always suffer from self-doubt. I publicly denounced that self-doubt a few months ago on my Facebook wall though.
Self-doubt doesn’t instantly turn into self-belief or self-confidence concerning your decisions, be they big or small. You do that in baby steps. Self-check is still necessary because even though our core is perfect, the edges of our personality still need improvement. But don’t let self-check turn into ‘analysis paralysis’. You need to be good enough; you don’t need to be perfect, as that voice tells you. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good enough.
However, every time you feel like blaming your mother, stop! Blaming takes away your power as does the effort you put in trying to change the other person. They say, ‘A person who blames others has not begun their lesson. A person who blames herself/himself has just begun their lesson. A person who blames no one has finished their lesson.’ The power to be happy always lies with you. Accept that it has been the card life has dealt you. Acceptance is the hardest part that life has dealt with this card to you. All problems seem small when your mother is behind you. Even the smallest of issues make you crumble when your mom is not behind you. It’s like your core feels weak then. But the Hindi word for acceptance, swikriti (swa+kriti = acceptance of the power that you can build a better future for yourself) means it is half the battle won.
After you have accepted your reality that you didn’t have a supportive childhood, ask yourself: This is how it is. Now what? This two-word mantra ‘now what?’ has helped me tremendously though I still occasionally slip. The answer to ‘now what?’ will be different for different people. For me, it was to leave my corporate job and put my foot down about knowing and finding my inner voice and later expressing that inner voice through writing Facebook posts. I got to know that many people have had very critical mothers, but they could never share their feelings with anyone because in India the mother is considered a ‘goddess’ and equally venerated. So, a child who tries to share his/her feeling about feeling disrespected by their mother is often not believed and singled out as being weird.
On the other extreme are the mothers who give birth to the ‘raja beta or rani beti’ syndrome. These mothers speak so highly of their children and even talk to them as if they are the centre of the universe. Till about the age of 7-8, i.e. until a child has figured out his/her individuality and is heavily dependent on the mother for daily needs, it is ok to be the centre of the universe, but beyond that age, the child can certainly be given feedback about his/her behaviour. They need to understand by that age that they are part of the larger universe and need to learn to co-operate and share with others as well as start being helpful to others in need.
How your mother listens to you becomes your outer voice. If she gives importance and attention to what you say then you will talk mostly in a base and calm voice (mostly seen as a sign of a powerful person).However, if that is not the case, then you will mostly be doing the talking in a high pitch. Because if attention isn’t given freely, a child will try to snatch it by various forms. Attention is a form of love that children thrive on. Till the age of around 7 when children mostly understand only non-verbal communication, attention (especially looking at the child if he/she is trying to talk something that matters a lot) becomes the foundation on which the child’s adult identity is built. Such children will mostly use anger as a tool to express to their parents and the society around them that they are feeling invisible. Anger is an amplified expression of sadness; sadness is an amplified expression of feeling powerless; feeling powerless is an amplified feeling of being unheard.
Also, the child can also unconsciously catch on to the mother’s self-talk. Most children are pros at figuring out who or what they don’t like. So say if you don’t like the way your body looks, but talk to your daughter about having a positive body image, she can sense it that it doesn’t come from deep within you and wouldn’t have as much of an impact. So if you want your child to exude qualities like confidence, compassion, cooperation, kindness etc., you have to make sure that you have the qualities deep within you that you want your child to learn. You have to raise yourself (your faith in yourself basically) before you can think of raising your child well. Be the change you want to see in your child.
How your father talks to you helps/hinders in regulating your outer voice. So the mother is your link to yourself, while the father is your link to society.