If your words were recorded…

A few years ago I was cleaning out some old toys that my children had out grown and I found an old brightly colored, heavy duty, children’s Playskool tape recorder from the 1980’s. It was a little beat up, as it had been well loved and used a lot over the years. The tape was still inside so I hit play and was amused with the sounds of my children’s voices that had been captured on the tape. I listened for a while trying to pinpoint the year the tape was made.  I decided that it was shortly after my last child, a daughter, was born. My next oldest child was a boy who would have been 3 years old at that time.

 Now, the next part of the story I am not proud of but it needs to be told for me to prove my point.

After listening for a while I heard myself say to my 3 year old son, “DON’T YOU EVEN THINK ABOUT IT’’ in a mean, hateful tone.  I gathered from the situation that he was about to pull an attention getting stunt that would hurt our new baby. I was so ashamed and filled with sadness that I had used such a harsh tone of voice with him. At the time, in the heat of the situation I’m sure I was not feeling very companionate and had NO IDEA my words were being recorded for posterity. But as I stood there listening I had several thoughts and feelings.

“Did my words to him let him know how much I loved him”?

“Would I have talked to him that way if my adult friends were listening”?

“Would I have spoken with the same tone of voice to an adult acquaintance who was not a member of my family”?

The answer to all those questions is, “Probably not”. So why is it so easy to be the most unkind to those we love the most? Those should be the ones to whom we are the most kind. In our homes our words have the great potential to do so much harm or so much good.  I realized I needed to remember to speak at least as nicely to my child as I would to a stranger in a grocery store line.

Over the years I’ve thought of that experience so many times. It’s become a check for me to remember to speak as kindly as if my words were being recorded to be re-played for an audience.

Why?

There is a student here at this school and he LOVES to ask “Why?”  The teachers joke that he could ask that all day long.

Why-

I remember my mom telling me about when my oldest brother was little.  They were driving down the road and there was a man carrying his bicycle.  In one hand he had one of the tires, in the other hand he had the other tire connected to the rest of the bike.   My brother saw the man and the following conversation ensued:

Brother:  What is that man doing?

Mom: I think he’s carrying his bike to be fixed.

Brother: Why?

Mom: It looks like one of his tires is flat.

Brother: Why?

Mom: Maybe he rode over something sharp.

Brother: Why?

Mom: Maybe it was something so small and he couldn’t see it, or maybe he ran over something sharp because he wasn’t paying attention.

Brother: Why?

Mom:  He could have been looking ahead to see if the light was green or red instead of looking at the ground.

Brother: Why?

Mom:  He would have been looking at the streetlight so he could tell if he could go through the light or if he needed to stop.

Brother: Why?

And so forth.

 

I’m sure many of you have had similar conversations.  While it may feel frustrating to you, children are just trying to figure out the world and how it works.

As an extension of this idea I find that kids like to know the reasons for doing things.  In my experience as a teacher I have had greater success when asking students to do something when I tell then the reason behind the request.  When I walk my classes down the school halls they sometimes get noisier than I like.  If I say, “Our line is too loud, please turn your voices down/off” the line would get slightly quieter.  I would have greater success when I would say, “Our line is getting noisy.  I see that some of the classroom doors are open.  If we keep talking we are going to disturb other classes who are learning.  Please stop talking in line.”

There are countless examples I could give from the view of a teacher, but this also works at home with your kiddos.  Instead of saying, “Get out of the street!”  you might try, “the street is for cars and bikes and the side walk is for people. If you stay in the street you could get hit by a car or bike and it could hurt you really bad.  That would make me fell so sad. Please walk on the sidewalk where you will be more safe”.

I feel like it is easy to assume that kids can draw conclusions about why we are asking things, but that is rarely the case.  Until about 8 years old kids brains are not yet wired to think abstractly.

So next time a child asks you “why?” over and over and over…. Remember that they aren’t intentionally driving you crazy—they’re figuring out the way the world works.  And who knows, maybe as we think about why people are doing things more consciously we may be a little more understanding and patient with others who think differently than we do.

Our One Year Anniversay

Hello readers,

Happy one year Ann

Exciting news – this week we celebrate the 1 year anniversary of our website! Last August, we posted our first article. It’s been fun for us to be able to share our thoughts and ideas with you. Thanks to those who asked or have sent in questions. We appreciate the time you take to read Ask A Parent of Teacher and hope you’ll continue visiting our site each week for the next year.

Layton's in Thailand 8:2014

Lynn-Jenny at Havasupai Falls2

Lindsey’s in Thailand, working and vacationing, and I took a little time off writing to hike in and OUT of Havasupai. I also watch my three grandsons for a few days. Amazingly I survived both! We took two weeks off from writing posts, but now we’re back. While taking care of my grandchildren I was reminded of a few things.

That Parenting takes tremendous patience!

I remembered that there is a different time schedule when children are involved. Everything takes a lot, lot longer.

I remembered that lots of explaining is required.  I know why and how we are going to do something, but I forgot that children need lots of explanations in order to not feel frustrated, and to learn how things are done correctly.

 I learned that I should take 3 bags of snacks to church because young children do not want to share (or are just not good at it yet).

 I appreciated the patience of those around me because we brought extra noise and movement to places where there should have been quiet.

 I was reminded that I need to lighten up in order to enjoy the fleeting stage of childhood (and grand parenting).

I also want to share a very good example of patience parenting I observed recently:

I happened to see a young dad as he lifted his misbehaving child up to sit on a three foot block wall so he could bend down and be at eye level with him.  He began to kindly explain to the boy why his actions had been inappropriate and what needed to change. The boy listened for a few seconds and then spit right in his dad’s face.  I was only a spectator but I remember how angry I felt when I saw it. I felt my teeth clench and the blood rush to my face and I had the impulse to reach out and slap the young boy in the face, and I was not even the dad! Fortunately this story had a good ending, the dad stood up straight, took a deep breath, wiped off his face, looked at his son with a disappointed face, paused in an effort to regain some self control, then continued talking to his son (fortunately the boy did not spit again).  The father did not reach out and slap the kid’s face, like I felt like doing. I was SO proud of that young dad for displaying such self-restraint and not lashing out.   Parenting takes TREMENDOUS patience!

 

So Thank you, Thank you, Thank you to all you parents who, when pushed to your limits stay in control and resist the temptation to be unkind even when your child’s actions are unkind and irrational (No guilt here parents, none of us are perfect, we just try to do better next time than we did last time, right?).

Happy Parenting,

Jenny and Lindsey

Speak more kindly

Hello readers!  I hope you are doing well!  We would love to know what’s on your mind.  Drop us a line and let us know the areas where you have been doing really well.  Let us know if you have any struggles or questions you’d like another view on.  We would love to hear from you.  Today I want to share a few thought on the way we speak to our students and/or children.  Here a few things to think about and try.

How to speak more kindly to your child

speak-kindly

~ Think before you speak.  We all think unkind things but we don’t have to say EVERY thing we think.  Colleagues have told me that I always seem to know just what to say.  I believe a part of that is my natural disposition, but the greater factor is that I really think about what I am going to say.  There are times when my mind is thinking “YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME CHILD!  IN WHAT UNIVERSE WOULD THAT BE ACCEPTABLE!  YOU ARE ACTING LIKE AN IDIOT”.  But instead of letting these words out, I think for a second and say something like “That’s not a very kind choice! What do you think would be a better way for us to handle this?” It is natural to think unkind things when you are frustrated.  Just remember that just because you think something, that does not mean you need to say it.

~ “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” Mother and writer Peggy O’Mara shared those words and she is spot on!  Think about how you want your students and children to talk to themselves.  Use the kinds of words and the tone of voice you’d like them to hear and use.

~ Explain things to them, including how you are feeling.  Let them know when you are frustrated.  Instead of yelling, losing your temper, or lashing out when you are unhappy, tell them.  Let them know when you need a tiny break and have then silently count to 20 for you.  It is healthy for kids to see that grown ups get frustrated and upset.  As a bonus, when they see you taking a break it goes into their mental queue and they are more likely to do the same when they have similar feelings.