Watch Your Tone.

You set the tone for your family... it is not easy, but you set the tone.

“Watch your tone… watch YOUR tone!”

Those words are echoing around my head a lot these days and the ‘your’ I’m referring to is not my kids…. it is me.

Our house echoes with the whinging and narking of six people. It seems we are in the middle of an epidemic of whining and saying mean things. Even the simplest questions are often answered in a way that makes me grit my teeth and often I find myself yelling at them to speak nicely.

Yep, ever the hypocrite, I yell at them, in a not nice way, to tell them to speak nice.
Yep, that’ll work…. or not.

It took me a little while to realise and remember, but unsurprisingly it all comes back to me and that scarily insightful line from Parenting Passageway

“You must set the tone in your home”

I’ve blogged about this before. I’ve made a promise to myself to set the tone, to be ‘queen of my home‘, but lately I’ve fallen off the wagon a little and it’s become blatantly obvious by the way my children are talking to each other and to me.

I am not ok with it. I am not ok with the constant eye-rolling, and the exasperated sighs at the end of snarky remarks. I am not ok that a simple discussion about something starts off angry before it even begins. I am not ok with speaking without thinking, or using words to hurt people.

I am not ok with any of that, and it’s me that needs to stop doing it.

It’s been so easy for anger or defensiveness to creep into my words. When I stop and think about it, I often ask the big kids to do something, already assuming it will be a battle, and that shows in the way I speak. How can I expect them to do what I ask when my tone is already telling them they don’t want to? How can I expect them to reply in an appropriate manner when I have already set the tone for the conversation with the first words that came out of my mouth?

It’s hard wearing the crown, being the queen, and taking responsibility for setting the tone for my family, but that old adage that you can’t change others but you can change yourself rings in my ears.

I am the catalyst for change and if I want my family’s conversation to be kind, understanding, and pleasent then every time I open my own mouth I need to hear those words in my head…

“Watch your tone…”

Are you working on being queen of your home? What’s the hardest part for you?

{image adapted from this one from CarbonNYC via Flickr}

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Read the comments or scroll down to add your own:

  1. says

    I was just thinking the same sort of thing. I am desperately trying to get Miss 6 to speak appropriately particularly when she is frustrated or asked to do something she doesn’t want to do. I am struggling to think of how I can instill in her the importance of speaking respectfully to others.
    When you have whinging kids, and you are tired, sometime it’s hard to remember who is the adult, let alone remember to be the queen. It’s an ongoing process.

    • katef says

      It certainly is an on-going process…. I am hoping that if my kids see my trying to do better, they will also try to do better. Hopefully!

  2. says

    Just before I went away, I made a commitment to my kids that I would use a better tone when I was cross. I was tired and just not setting the right tone. I do ok until I get too tired then become to snappy. It is great to read posts like this to remind me that setting the tone is one of the most important things I can do as a mum.

    • katef says

      I find I am at my worst when I am stressed…. I yell and whinge then the kids yell and whinge. It is such a vicious cycle and I need to be the one to break it!

  3. says

    Thanks for posting this today. It is like youar inside my head!! I was not a nice mother yesterday and it has been building for a while. I am going to try and remember that one phrase and set the tone in my house (easier said than done I think).

  4. says

    So love this post and can so relate. I ha e been thinking the same thing with my four year old lately. I hear her and complain and then I hear me and understand.
    The most important thing is that we are aware and are trying to make it better.

    • katef says

      I am hoping that if my kids see me trying to do better then not only will they also try and do better, but they will learn that it’s ok to make mistakes, and to pick yourself up and try again….

  5. says

    Gosh, I so hear you. And I love how honest you are and how empowering that is for the rest of us – I’m really conscious to apologise if I get snappy or yell and am so thankful that since Bliss’ baby days and the sheer exhaustion that accompanied them, are over there is significantly less yelling in our house -it’s made me so aware of how much being tired impacts MY attitude and thus the tone of the house. Thanks for reminding me just how important this is x

  6. Alissa says

    I so needed to read this today. Explains a lot in our house at the moment… Tired Mummy with newborn – and toddler copycat!!
    Tomorrow is a new day – must remember “watch your tone”.
    Thanks for your honest sharing.

  7. Rosie says

    What a great post. This really struck a cord with me. Lately, I have been trying to speak nicely to my kids. There has been a noticeable decrease in their angry outbursts. This makes me think my mood does set tone. My husband says ‘Happy wife, happy life’.

    • katef says

      As old fashioned as that saying is, there is a lot of truth in it. Maybe it should be ‘happy mum, happy family’? Though that doesn’t have quite the same ring to it does it??

  8. says

    wow Kate. the queen of the house, setting the tone is easier said than done. the complexity is huge. are families forgiving when the standards slip? salvaging it, gosh it is hard to claw back. relentless, exhausting undeniably hard. I know the feeling. thanks for the reminder that I am not alone.

  9. says

    I literally just posted something like this on my FB page. It’s the age old challenge of being a consistent role model don’t you think? I know when all my buttons are being pushed and it feels like the world is against me I occasionally resort to a big YELLFEST. Not surprising that the kids think this is an acceptable response to someone else’s bad behaviour then is it? I’m thinking of starting a yelling jar for me and when it’s full I’ll treat the kids to an icecream or something. I may as well role model some good behaviour!

  10. says

    Thanks for the reminder. I remember that other post. And your home sounds much like mine at the moment. After tonight I have two weeks off work, just to be at home and be a mum, so hopefully that will give me some time to set the scene. Fingers crossed. Good luck with your lot.

    • katef says

      a bit of down time seems to work wonders around here… I hope your time off is as positive for you all!

  11. says

    Wow what a timely post for me. I’m constantly frustrated at the Farmers long work hours that I don’t want to talk to him nicely when he gets home so I tweet, read blogs & don’t engage with him. I then wonder why he sits in front of the telly & ignores me! I think you have pointed out the obvious to me & I appreciate it. So tonight when the farmer gets home I will try to put my frustrations aside & engage with him nicely.

  12. says

    hoo boy you must have been in my house the last few days! fark my tone of voice and words chosen were so similar to the tone of my pelvic floor! yep. me change. that is it. so simple. one of my guru parenting pals always says just change one thing – like bed time or dinner or whatever. I must say I have picked yesterday my two year old saying ‘mumumumumumumumum!’ and instead of my blood pressure rising I turn to him and say (in a lovley tone with a lovely face) “excuse me mama’ and he repeats to me in the most wonderful way. i know we will make it!!!
    good luck with your change about as well! so lovely for our headset let alone our family.

  13. says

    Thank you for this. We have precisely the same situation here (who doesn’t?) Only five minutes ago I admonished my children in a none too polite tone over their breakfast time squabbling. I usually find I am more badly behaved the more tired I am – but given that I *know* that, why did I stay up until gone midnight? Must try harder!

    • katef says

      oh if I could stop myself from staying up late there would definitely be a lot less frustration in our house… but I’m just never tired when 10pm rolls around LOL

  14. says

    I needed to read this today, and have been thinking similar thoughts. It’s hard work, some days, though. Thanks for the post.

  15. says

    I was thinking about this today too. I was thinking how do I expect my kids not to yell when I yell? All I do when the kids are fighting or causing trouble is yell. There needs to be consequences and they need to be enforced AND without yelling.
    It is so hard, especially when you are in the morning rush to get out of the house or when you are tired at the end of a long day, but you are right I need to remind myself to set the tone and lead by example. Big time.

  16. says

    Do you think it has something to do with this time of year? End of the school year, everyone is tired and worn out? That is what I’m putting it down to at the moment, and giving myself a break over it. We just need to get through the next three weeks and then I’m sure my happy family of clowns will return! I hope!

  17. Nic says

    Yes! This is exactly what I am working on at the moment. It drives me nuts the attitude and whingey way they answer me, yet, I do the same so how can I expect them to change. Its also got worse since the warmer weather is here, they are tired, getting used to the heat, sick of school and waiting for christmas.

  18. says

    I need to kill my overreaction and stop raising my voice about the littlest things. This really makes me guilty. It IS an overreaction because it is mostly not biggies. And I can see the immediate effect of it on her beautiful face. It breaks my heart. I suck sometimes.

  19. says

    I prefer to be the empress. Like Cleopatra. Benevolent, but deadly.

    Seriously though, I’ve had that happening around here, too. So I’ve changed my tone and now so have they. But as soon as I slip up, so do they. It’s a constant mindfulness…

  20. says

    Thanks this post, it is a wonderful reminder. I find it so easy to let my tiredness affect everything and everyone in the house which is not a nice way to operate.

  21. says

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately too. I cringe when I hear my six year old using a nasty tone and realize it sounds WAY too familiar because I’ve been talking/yelling that way at him and his brother. Sometimes it can feel really difficult to pull out of that downward spiral, but you are so right, it is our responsibility to do so. Thankfully I know they are picking up on the good stuff too when I hear them talking sweetly to their younger sister when she cries. Now, to try for more of that sweet tone from me…

  22. says

    it struck me while reading your blog that my 4 year old has begun to heave and roll his eyes when asked to do something or said in an exasperated tone “That’s just great!”. Time for me to rethink my tone. Great reminder!

    • katef says

      I have one girl who is a terrible eye roller…. drove me nuts till I was working on a video post for my blog and realised how often I roll my eyes!!!! OOpss

    • katef says

      I often think that if I can just change the way I am speaking, then my mood tends to change as well.
      It can be hard to see all your bad points reflected back at you by your kids, but also good for you.. right?

  23. says

    Oh yes. It is so hard, I find it worst in the evenings when we are all tired, especially recently when both husband and I have been in pain from various injuries – after a day out and about that pain is worse, throw in tired and it all goes pear shaped.

    We just keep working to improve it.

  24. says

    You are right. We do set the tone in our homes. And sometimes it is not even what we say, but how we ourselves are feeling and dealing with daily responsibilities and stress. If we are calm and relaxed, the home is calm and relaxed.

  25. says

    I know the feeling, sometimes I just feel like screaming and rolling eyes myself for a day. How often we find ourselves telling kids “watch your tone” but we are sometimes not so much better in this matter. Than you for reminding me that.

  26. says

    Great post! I always find it “funny” when I am shouting BE QUIET EVERYONE!!! Tone is so important. I find the best way to calm down is whisper all my instructions!

  27. EJ says

    This post seriously just whacked me in the head and opened my eyes to what is going on in our house at the moment. It sounds silly but I never realized I was part of the problem! Going to try to use this from now on. Thanks xx