Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Communicating

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 2:38 PM
Before you get too overwhelmed with the responsibility of representing God to your children, let me move to the second tool in parenting. This tool is chatter. Chatter means keeping the lines of communication open with our children. We are to talk with them about everything, at any time, any place. We are to talk with them when things are going right. We are to talk with them when things are going wrong. We are to talk with them about casual, every day topics. We are to talk with them about deep, intense, difficult topics. We are to talk to them at home, over homework, over a meal, in the car, on the phone, and in their rooms. Notice I said talk with them. Healthy communication is always goes two ways (at least.) And healthy relationships are only built using the building block of healthy communication.

Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deuteronomy 11:19

I observed the importance of communication in relationships between parents and children first as a family counselor. Over and over I was seeing the phenomena of good people who somehow as parents were producing disrespectful, rude, children who didn’t exhibit the values the parents obviously believed in. Some of these parents had fallen short in their ability (or willingness) to discipline their children. But others had consistently set and maintained appropriate boundaries. As I continued to observe these families it became clear that these parents weren’t effectively communicating with their child.

Oh, many of them thought that they were communicating. They were very good at verbalizing their beliefs, values, and rules. As a matter of fact, some of them had it down so well that their child didn’t hear them anymore. What they were doing was talking to their child, not with their child. It was almost like they got stuck in a mode of parenting when their child couldn’t communicate very well and needed constant supervision and reminders.

When children are very young (toddlers, preschoolers) information needs to be repeated. Parents often feel like broken records. During this phase of parenting we need to repeat rules again and again because of the developmental capabilities of a child to understand and remember them from day to day (and sometimes minute to minute.) Just because we have to talk to our children a lot more when they are little doesn’t mean that we can’t also talk with them. Young children notice everything and ask questions about everything. Don’t let yourself get tired of the seemingly-never-ending line of questioning. Instead see them as golden opportunities. Our children naturally create the perfect set up for building mutual communication with us. As we answer their questions we are not only teaching them about us and the world around them, we are also taking advantage of an opportunity to get to know more about our children. Even children who are very young are able (and very willing) to share their opinions and desires with us. We open the lines of communication as we ask them questions and listen to their answers and listen to their questions and provide respectful/relevant answers. When we talk to or lecture our children we are trying to get them to understand us (whether it’s a toddler or a teenager), but that’s not what true communication is all about. As we learn to communicate with our child, we are stacking essential, foundational blocks to our relationship with them.

I really can’t say enough about the importance of healthy, effective communication between parents and children. Again God is the Ultimate Parent. He has communicated with His children in a variety of ways from the beginning of human time. He has walked with us, whispered in our ears, roared through the thunder, called us through the prophets, expressed His love through His Son, given us the written Word, and invited us to dialogue with Him through prayer. In know how to communicate with our children, we can always look to and ask Him for guidance. Just as God communicates with us in many ways, we too can communicate with our children in many ways and for many different purposes. Our opportunities to communicate - in a variety of ways - are endless.

When a child asks about traffic and expresses impatience, it’s a golden opportunity to talk about patience. To tell them that patience isn’t waiting, but how we wait. And since we can’t make the traffic move, let’s do something fun like sing songs. When they comment on how busy you are with chores, it’s the perfect opportunity to talk about every one pitching in to help and having a positive attitude while getting the not-so-fun things done. When a child asks about that person at the store that wasn’t very nice, it’s a wonderful time to talk about being kind to people regardless of how they act, and that we never know what’s going on with someone to make them behave in an unkind manner. When a family member dies, it’s a perfect opportunity to talk to about eternity and God’s gift of forgiveness offered through His Son. When a child is scared, it’s a perfect opportunity to talk through their fears and pray with them about their fear. When a child tries really hard, it’s an ideal time to encourage them and praise their efforts. Teachable moments are almost limitless once mommy’s radar is tuned into them.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Communicating

Before you get too overwhelmed with the responsibility of representing God to your children, let me move to the second tool in parenting. This tool is chatter. Chatter means keeping the lines of communication open with our children. We are to talk with them about everything, at any time, any place. We are to talk with them when things are going right. We are to talk with them when things are going wrong. We are to talk with them about casual, every day topics. We are to talk with them about deep, intense, difficult topics. We are to talk to them at home, over homework, over a meal, in the car, on the phone, and in their rooms. Notice I said talk with them. Healthy communication is always goes two ways (at least.) And healthy relationships are only built using the building block of healthy communication.

Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deuteronomy 11:19

I observed the importance of communication in relationships between parents and children first as a family counselor. Over and over I was seeing the phenomena of good people who somehow as parents were producing disrespectful, rude, children who didn’t exhibit the values the parents obviously believed in. Some of these parents had fallen short in their ability (or willingness) to discipline their children. But others had consistently set and maintained appropriate boundaries. As I continued to observe these families it became clear that these parents weren’t effectively communicating with their child.

Oh, many of them thought that they were communicating. They were very good at verbalizing their beliefs, values, and rules. As a matter of fact, some of them had it down so well that their child didn’t hear them anymore. What they were doing was talking to their child, not with their child. It was almost like they got stuck in a mode of parenting when their child couldn’t communicate very well and needed constant supervision and reminders.

When children are very young (toddlers, preschoolers) information needs to be repeated. Parents often feel like broken records. During this phase of parenting we need to repeat rules again and again because of the developmental capabilities of a child to understand and remember them from day to day (and sometimes minute to minute.) Just because we have to talk to our children a lot more when they are little doesn’t mean that we can’t also talk with them. Young children notice everything and ask questions about everything. Don’t let yourself get tired of the seemingly-never-ending line of questioning. Instead see them as golden opportunities. Our children naturally create the perfect set up for building mutual communication with us. As we answer their questions we are not only teaching them about us and the world around them, we are also taking advantage of an opportunity to get to know more about our children. Even children who are very young are able (and very willing) to share their opinions and desires with us. We open the lines of communication as we ask them questions and listen to their answers and listen to their questions and provide respectful/relevant answers. When we talk to or lecture our children we are trying to get them to understand us (whether it’s a toddler or a teenager), but that’s not what true communication is all about. As we learn to communicate with our child, we are stacking essential, foundational blocks to our relationship with them.

I really can’t say enough about the importance of healthy, effective communication between parents and children. Again God is the Ultimate Parent. He has communicated with His children in a variety of ways from the beginning of human time. He has walked with us, whispered in our ears, roared through the thunder, called us through the prophets, expressed His love through His Son, given us the written Word, and invited us to dialogue with Him through prayer. In know how to communicate with our children, we can always look to and ask Him for guidance. Just as God communicates with us in many ways, we too can communicate with our children in many ways and for many different purposes. Our opportunities to communicate - in a variety of ways - are endless.

When a child asks about traffic and expresses impatience, it’s a golden opportunity to talk about patience. To tell them that patience isn’t waiting, but how we wait. And since we can’t make the traffic move, let’s do something fun like sing songs. When they comment on how busy you are with chores, it’s the perfect opportunity to talk about every one pitching in to help and having a positive attitude while getting the not-so-fun things done. When a child asks about that person at the store that wasn’t very nice, it’s a wonderful time to talk about being kind to people regardless of how they act, and that we never know what’s going on with someone to make them behave in an unkind manner. When a family member dies, it’s a perfect opportunity to talk to about eternity and God’s gift of forgiveness offered through His Son. When a child is scared, it’s a perfect opportunity to talk through their fears and pray with them about their fear. When a child tries really hard, it’s an ideal time to encourage them and praise their efforts. Teachable moments are almost limitless once mommy’s radar is tuned into them.

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