When my first was little, I used to talk to her all day. Almost a steady stream of explanations, questions and observations. I felt like it was up to me to deliver an experience of the world around her, through my eyes. When I watch old videos of us together, I wish I could have lovingly told the ‘me‘ of seven years ago to just be quiet and let her enjoy the new things she was discovering.
I used to say, “Oh, look at the moon! Look at the doggie! Wave bye bye!” ect. Interestingly, she went through a period where she was scared of the moon and of dogs! It was almost as if me pointing these things out to her and drawing artificial attention to them made her anxious! I also started to realise that it gets tiring always explaining, asking and talking!
This post is about my journey in the way I speak (or choose not to speak) to my kids and other children. I don’t want anyone reading this to think that I’m obsessed over every little thing I say to my kids or that I count my words or something crazy like that! It’s been more about the general awareness level and breaking free of the ‘record player‘ (the way we’re programmed to speak to children from our own past experiences). I feel I have a much deeper connection with my kids when I stop ‘talking at‘ them and really consider if what I have to say is actually helping the situation, or if I’m imposing my ignorance or my past, on their new experiences. The journey of awareness of speech is gradual and on-going.
Now, she’s 7 years old, and the other day, she was braiding a belt for her pants that kept falling down. She was putting in a considerable effort into the task that she had initiated herself. But, I could see straight away that the yarn she had cut was too short. For a second, I wanted to ‘save‘ her from making a mistake. I could have told her to stop and consider if the string was long enough. But, I didn’t. I watched. She finished. She realised it was too short. She simply said, “Wow, this is WAY too short!” and bounced away from her project and didn’t try to make another one.
In the short term, my intervention would have meant she would have been successful this time, but what about the next time and the time after that? I guess I could have encouraged her to make another one, right? Wasn’t she disappointed that she hadn’t succeeded? No… Her final product was only a failure in MY eyes. She didn’t have to know about the dialogue in my head! Who am I to say what learning experience she had gained? She had completed her activity and wasn’t attached by the outcome, only I was attached the outcome.
I found that most of the time when I ‘talked at‘ my children (explaining, asking questions, being unaware of their learning journey), I was interrupting a really important learning processes.
My four year old recently learned how to scoot really well on her scooter. By accident, I told her twice how awesome it was that she was scooting so well! (Cheer leader style). She rolled her eyes and said, “Why do you keep saying that?!” Oops… sorry. They’ll catch you in that moment of unawareness and let you know how irritating you are!
Kids complain. We try to reason with them. Instead of hearing them out.
Kids cry. We talk and distract, rather than listen to their hurts and frustrations.
Kids are sad. We try to talk them out of being sad, instead of allowing their hearts to be heavy (with kids, the heaviness usually only lasts for a few moments)
Kids discover something new! We try to explain their discovery even deeper and accidentally make it seem like they might not be able to learn all the answers on their own.
Kids get scared of something. Again, we try to distract or won’t validate their fears, telling them to stop being silly, or to be a big girl, instead of holding them in their space and allowing the fear to express itself.
The same goes for getting kids to cooperate. Let’s says it’s time to leave the park, I say we need to get going a hundred times, but they know that the first 99 times I say it, that we’re really not ready to go. So, I’ve literally wasted my breath. Same goes for put on your shoes, brush your teeth, etc. Unless the sound honestly does not reach their ear drums… they heard you the first time! Whether or not they cooperate is another story.
Over the years, I’ve gotten so so much better at responding, rather than reacting, but it’s hard to break out of ‘react‘ mode! Even people who have practiced some sort of self help/self discipline for years, suddenly find themselves spewing out words of unawareness from their past experiences when they become parents. Children bring out the best and worst of us!
Kids usually don’t need lengthy explanations on life. They get it. But, sometimes they DO need extra explanation. For example this morning, miss. 7 was bouncing on the bed doing flips and splits. Instead of telling her to ‘stop it‘ a million times, I told her “I need you do do your flips and splits in the other room because Marty is getting distracted by all your noise!” So, she went off in the the other room.
While writing this, my 4 year old came to me complaining about her sister. I listened. I told her in a few words that I understand how she is feeling. She left, happy that she was heard. I didn’t have to explain for ten minutes about another course of action she could take that would make everybody happy. I mean, if she had asked me for some advice, I would have given it to her. But, really, she just wanted a shoulder to cry on.
Young children live in the present moment, so there’s really no need for too much explanation, planning ahead, pondering, etc. If they’re ready to absorb it, they will. If they’re not ready, the event or phenomena will simply pass them by.
Although I do talk now with more awareness, I’m not so serious and rigid that I won’t sing a silly non-sensical song to the baby and do silly fart jokes with the 5 year old. I still talk and explain things and point things out. It would be really unnatural and stiff not to! The key is to be natural with my kids and leave those past experiences aside to make room for something new!
If after reading this post, you feel like you want to speak with less wasted words to your children, but you’re not sure of how to get them to cooperate, there’s a fantastic book that I highly recommend, called ‘Attachment Play’ by Aletha Solter.