Communication is certainly easier when we use words. But that’s not the whole story.
My youngest son is 5 years old, and very sweet (sometimes). He was in speech therapy, and while he’s progressing well, some sounds are still problematic
A few months ago, he was telling us about the “sees.” This is when the verbal charades started.
Son: Hey guys, did you see the sees?
Wife: The seas?
Son: No, the sees
Me: The keys to the car?
Son: No, No, NO…THE SEES!
Wife: The cheese?
Wife: I am sorry, son. We don’t understand.
Son: (Exasperated sigh) You know, the sees were blowin’ in da wind when it was wainin’.
My wife and I simultaneously: Oh, the trees!
Son: Yes, that’s what I have been sa-ying!
When communication fails, we are left feeling as frustrated as he was.
Just for fun...
So, what are we communicating?
As another imperfect parent, I am going to be vulnerable with you guys for a moment.
Two of my biggest downfalls in communication with my kids are:
- Exaggeration: “I have told you at least 5 times to stop.” In truth, it was probably 1-2 times. I also fall in to Always/Never thinking. “You ALWAYS leave your toys in the hall.” “You never clean up your messes.”
What this communicates: It minimizes my kid’s effort. They don’t “always” leave their toys in the hall. Maybe often, but not always. Overstating is discouraging.
- Sarcasm: My 10-year old son is an anxious kid and can be a bit dramatic at times. When I get frustrated with his exasperation, I sometimes sarcastically mock or overstate what he says. “I just can’t do this!” My response, in the most dramatic tone possible, “I just CAN’T do this. Oh, woe is me.”
What this communicates: “I think you are being ridiculous.” My son feels hurt and degraded again.
So, if you don’t think I’m a monster, I want to share 9 helpful considerations in communication that make my bonds with my children stronger.
- Consider my tone of voice: When I am irritated and I fail to check myself, I hurt my kids far more than I ever intended to. I CAN make my point in a respectful way.
- Read my own emotions: I need to make sure I am ready to hear my children’s perspective. I can’t do this well when I am irritable or upset.
- Read my kid’s emotions: I will quote my oldest son, “When I am in lizard brain, nothing makes since, no matter how it is said.” “Lizard Brain” is the emotional part of our brain that does not allow for rational processing. (See Lead by Example: Don’t Poke the Lizard)
- Approach my child with respect and dignity: Our purpose is to teach and support our children, so they become confident, independent, and successful people. Degrading them does nothing for this.
- Explain my thoughts and feelings: This communicates that it is okay to have strong feelings and thoughts. It teaches empathy. “I felt proud when you said ‘yes, sir’ and obeyed me when I asked you to. Thank you!” Your feedback is important.
- Speak their language: Simple and concise messages play best. Complicated/abstract ideas can be hard for kids.
- Proximity: Get on or below my kid’s physical level to talk. This communicates respect and consideration. If they are emotionally charged, standing over them feels intimidating.
- Listen, I mean REALLY listen: Ask them about what happened. Paraphrase what they are saying and ask for clarification. Ask them how they are feeling about the situation and the interaction with you.
- Bring up topics of conversation that interest my kid: It probably goes without saying, but sharing a common interest is a great way to establish a strong relationship with others.
If you have questions or comments, please leave them below. I promise to respond.
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