Call me a slow learner. For too many years, I pushed too hard when talking to my kids.
Somehow a brief comment turned into a nagging lecture.
I made my point not once – but again and again and again. Each time with a little less tact until it was completely gone. When my pattern of behavior became predictable, they listened less and less.
Even when I had something worthwhile to say.
In other words, my children tuned me out.
Then I watched one of their teachers in action. She was a master of communication – using a minimal number of words, acknowledging individual feelings, keeping the message positive and rarely resorting to the words “no” or “stop.” Sometimes a hand gesture worked better than words.
First, the simple – yet highly intentional – messages reminded her students of the task at hand. Second, they offered extra direction to those who needed it. Third, they made everyone feel valued.
And along the way, she displayed patience in every breath.
A desirable outcome every time – because she was able to connect on their level.
Equally important as the number of words was her even – and predictable – tone. It was never condescending or overly jubilant. By habit and design, she never came off as patronizing.
Not surprisingly, her students loved her. She made them feel safe. And in the process, she formed meaningful and trusting relationships – unlike the teacher across the hall.
I eventually volunteered in her classroom for a closer look. That’s when I was ready to test the waters at home. Although not as smooth as the teacher, my kids DID respond – and still do today – with more compliance and less defiance.
My “words” mattered.
Have I become perfect in approach? I can only wish. Old habits die hard. Every time I over-react, lose my patience and force too many words, I am painfully reminded. I can make a bad situation worse in a heartbeat.
My kids notice too.
Without question, I damage the trust that I have worked so hard to build. And at the same time, I fail to the model the behavior that I would like to see in them.
So what’s the advice today?
When you need to respond to your children (or anyone for that matter) – but feel rushed or anxious, PAUSE. Wait a few minutes, perhaps overnight – because once the words leave your mouth, they can’t be taken back.
By dealing with your “issues” first – and focusing on self-care, you will be amazed at the difference. Like me, you will become more effective in communicating with your children.
Like Carl W. Buehner eloquently stated, “They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
Or as a Pinterest post recently blurted, “Be sure to taste your words before you spit them out.”
Craig Peterson publishes EACH Child every Tuesday. To subscribe, open this link and “Like” the page. EACH Child is Special: Working Smarter Not Harder to Raise Every ONE
To follow Craig’s progress in writing a book about raising his six children with special needs, click here: Adopting Faith: A Father’s Unconditional Love
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