Not Putting Your Foot In Your Mouth

It’s way late, but here it is. Thanks for sticking with me. I’ll have the usual Monday post out sometime tomorrow afternoon or evening.

On top of knowing when to speak, we have to be careful of what we say. I’m sure that you can imagine from the last two posts a myriad of examples of this from how my parents handled the fish situation to the example of Suzy and her lost valuables.  I’m sure you may have even remembered a few from either your own childhood or that of your own child.  All of us have some moment in which our parent’s words or our own could have been more wisely chosen.

The goal here isn’t perfection. That’s not possible, its recognition of common mistakes in conversations. Some apply to children more than others, and some can be applied to all of our interactions. I had someone once tell me that we are all salesmen. The impression that others have of us is based on our words and actions. Successful salesmen have a way with words. They know when to use them and when to shut up. They can see the moment in which to act and the moment in which to step back. While few of us want to sell anything, we can learn communication so as to facilitate better conversation with others and our children.

As I read the questions sections of How to Talk So Kids will Listen, I found myself surprised by some of the things they suggested, but as I read further it all made sense. Let me share some of these with you now.

Empathizing

Should we do it all the time? Of course not, that would be exhausting and quite honestly, there are going to be times that we don’t exactly understand how our children feel.  It’s the negative emotions and hurtful feelings that we most need this ability for. That is where we have to struggle to remain clam, listen, and understand.

Why do you feel that way?

Most of us would think that we should ask that question, but this can make it worse. I’m sure we’ve all had a moment in which we are so mad that we can’t even really figure out why we are mad. It may be the phase of the moon, a rough night with a crying baby, or that something truly terrible has happened.  We may be able to rationalize our feelings, but not all children are going to be able to do this and it’s just going to frustrate them more. Thinking back to my own dealings with children, it’s so very true.  I’ve asked a child why they feel homesick and they are so overwhelmed by the question that sometimes it just makes the waterworks all the worse. If we let them tell the story and vent, they will most likely figure it out. This goes back to listening before you ask or give advice.

Should we agree with and accept our children’s feelings all the time?

First of all, we aren’t always going to be able to agree. They just need to be accepted so that they can calm down and think more clearly. It’s something I wish I, and other adults, were better about in our discussions with each other and children.  They need recognition of what they are feeling not agreement or disagreement.

There are some who might think that accepting all these emotions may lead to other negative behaviors. What we have to remember is that accepting that the emotions exist does not mean that we have to accept unacceptable behaviors based on the emotions. It only means that we recognize how they are feeling and what effect it is having on them.

Is there anything wrong with saying I understand how you feel?

There isn’t per se, the problem is that children aren’t always going to believe you. It’s going to take further examples from your own experiences to let them feel and know that you understand.

What if we are wrong in identifying our child’s feelings?

Honestly, there’s no harm done. They are going to let you know that you are wrong. Maybe you missed something when you were listening. It does happen to even the most attentive person. Or maybe you misunderstood. Our children are still learning about clear communication. Whatever the reason may be, go back, gather more information and try again. Even if you fumble, they’ll still appreciate it. And when we make mistakes and take it in stride we teach our children that it’s okay to fumble occasionally.

The author’s suggestion on hearing “I hate you”

It hurts when our children use those words. We know they don’t mean it, but it can still throw us off our game.  Even hearing it from the campers could hurt, especially if it was a kid I’d had year after year.  Talk to your child about how that feels and then suggest that they tell you in another way so that maybe you can try to help.

When words aren’t enough

Sometimes it takes more than words to be able to let go enough to get to the root of the problem. Each kid is going to have different activities that can help. Some need to write, like I did when I was little. When I was older, it was a punching bag. I’ve met kids who blow off the steam through music, dancing, art, and other activities that they are passionate about. Sometimes a child needs time before we can help them with words.  If you’re looking for a place to start, drawing feelings is a good one, especially since they are young. You might even learn something from their drawings either by your knowledge of them or some research into art therapy.

What to do when you make a mistake

We are all going to slip at some point. All we can do is go to our child and acknowledge our mistakes. Not only does it set a good example for them, but it can lead to deeper meaningful discussion between you and your child.

Deviations from the norm

1 There are children who will reject having their exact words repeated to them. I remember hating this as a child and I’ve flinched at times that I’ve seen that same look of frustration on one of my campers or cousins.

2 Some children prefer not to talk right away and that’s okay.  There’s going to be things that our kids can’t talk to us about. Ever. I know I have things I would never talk to my parents about even though I know I could go to them with it.

3 Be careful how intense or cool your response is. A teenager who is having an intense emotion may become frustrated when you say “Oh You’re Mad.” I know if that would have been me as a teen my response would have been “No s*** Sherlock.” The same is true of overly intense responses. It can make them feel that they have to deal with our emotions on top of their own.

4 I feel like this should be a “duh rule” but I’ve met parents who didn’t get it, so I’ll put it here just to be safe. If you’re child ever calls themselves a name be it fat, dumb, etc., never feed that feeling by calling them that name.  We can accept that pain without dignifying that feeling by using the same words.

I hope my experience as well as those that I have shared from the reading can help you when talking to your child. I know I’m not perfect. I make the same mistakes, but we have to recognize those mistakes and ones that we might make in the future, before we are able correct or prevent them. It is all about knowing our children, when to speak and when to be silent. I’m sure you’re getting tired of hearing this by now, but there are a lot of aspects of raising children that relate to the concepts to know, to dare, to will, and to be silent. They aren’t just concepts for the Craft or your religion, they can be a lifestyle.

Blessed Be.

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