Wednesday May 31, 2006
Messages Parents Send
Verbal communication has two parts: what is said and what is heard. As parents, we have the responsibility of taking time to listen and communicate clearly. By word and action, we are to consistently convey that we accept them and consider them valuable. As we do so, we should be mindful of the messages they are hearing. Consider two examples:
Scenario #1: Interruptions by children. Perhaps we are completing a chore or simply watching television when our child comes with a question. If our response is, “Not now — can’t you see I’m in the middle of something?” we may be trying to express simply that we are busy, but the child interprets our message as, “My parent’s activity is more important than me. I do not count as much as that task.” When our children approach us, we need to stop and make eye contact. Then we can either hear their request or ask them to wait a moment.
Scenario #2: Schoolwork. Suppose the child has not done well in school. A typical reaction is to say, “I know that you can do better. You could/should/must work harder.” We think we are expressing, “You’re capable of more,” but what he receives is, “I don’t measure up. I cannot please my parents.” Children need to hear two things from us in a situation like this: our awareness that we must improve the way we support and help them; and our acknowledgement that we aren’t perfect, and we don’t expect them to be, either.
Misunderstandings will occur. But with God’s help, we can straighten things out and make sure our children hear messages that both train and encourage them.
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