Watch Your Language – Are You Talking AT, FOR, or WITH Your Children? (Episode 213)
How do you talk to your kids? I've found that there can be many, many "conversations" in households where it's not really a true connection at all, but simply people talking at each other.
As we were recording our last episode on boredom, this was just sitting in my mind as a huge aspect of what can really break a family up.
I know I've been guilty of simply talking at my children, launching off into a lecture as their eyes start glazing over, and realizing that my talking was more and more for me than for them.
And I've stepped in and talked for my children, not allowing them the opportunity to have their own voice.
In this episode, Nathan and I share examples of when we have talked over, to or for our children, and how we course correct to help them explore their own voice.
Talking Over Our Children
I remember when my oldest, Clara, was 2 years old, and I was really going through a tantrum phase with her. She would really act out, and I was at my mother-in-law's house, sitting in the dining room talking with her about something Clara had done that week. As I was talking about Clara and her thoughts, feelings and actions, I observed her in the room with us, and noticed her behavior. It had gone from quietly playing on the couch near us to moving further away from us, grabbing some toys, and getting pretty aggressive and angry with them.
I started thinking about personality styles, and how loyalty and trust are a huge part of a relationship, and how I, personally, would be pretty frustrated if someone were talking all about me and my behavior to someone else as if I weren't in the room. I sure don't want my daughter feeling ignored or betrayed - she does have thoughts of her own, and I want to ensure she knows I value those - this isn't a switch I decide to do "one day".
How often do we talk over our children as if they aren't their own free-thinking little individuals? Do you recognize that, just like adults learning a new language, children will often understand way more than they are able to actually speak themselves? And, with this constantly growing and developing voice...when is it that we decide to flip a switch and pay attention to it?
Are you acknowledging their thoughts and emotions, even if they don't yet have the words to formulate it as you do?
I'm not here to be my child's voice, but to help her articulate the message SHE wants to say.
Talking AT our Children
As parents, we know the "right" thing, right? We're older, smarter, more mature, and have flat had more life experience than our children. And our kids don't know what they don't know. That being said, talking AT someone sure doesn't set a precedent for them really taking any new insight to heart, either.
When you are talking AT someone, you aren't asking for any input. It's the lecture, the monologue, the strictly rhetorical question. It's ultimately not about the other person; it's about what you yourself want to say.
When Nathan was talking at our child, she checked out. When you're passionately speaking from your soap box, it may be super helpful for you, but have you lost the others you're talking to? Is it really for them?
When we need to bring something to our children's' attention, a full-blown lecture rarely has the impression we want it to have on our kids. Sometimes, a simple observation of a pattern is all we need to do. Part of the process is being able to do this:
I see what I see
I say what I say
You use what you use
We learn and move on.
Instead of a lecture now, we may voice a concern and then let it go. What they choose to do with it is their prerogative. Clearly we're not letting our children take over, so it's not like it's a free-for-all and they can do whatever they want all the time. Yet, we know the old adage "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink" is true for our kids as well. There are times you can tell someone something over and over again, yet they are simply going to have to work through it themselves. Or, it may be that you simply aren't the teacher for that.
If you're continuously talking at your children and you aren't seeing the positive fruit you want, check yourself.
Are you engaging them in the conversation? Asking them questions that may help them find their own solution, or to better understand where they may be coming from? Are you willing to allow for natural consequences in their own growth process? Sometimes talking less and letting them actually experience the discomfort of a decision is way more effective than the words we have to say about it.
Instead of me telling Juliet how to be a friend and what a good friend is, for example, I want to ask her so many questions that she can articulate in her own words what true friendship looks like. This is how we engage each other to have conversations with one another, supporting each person's own voice.
Talking FOR our children
I have definitely been guilty of this one. Again, with my oldest - in my desire to help make her comfortable, I have caught myself so many times jumping in to cover for her - to answer a question for her, let people know she's an introvert or that she likes snakes, etc. This is honestly the main thing that sparked this blog post and podcast episode, as I realized what I was doing and how little I was allowing space for Clara to speak with her own words.
When your kids are around other adults, do you introduce them with any preface for how people should navigate them? Are you going ahead and placing the expectation on their interactions and how you'll manage them? Or are you giving them the space to potentially try on a new hat?
As I talked with Clara about what I caught myself doing, I apologized to her for speaking FOR her. And I got intentional about simply introducing her as my amazing daughter, and letting her determine what she wants to share with others. To be honest, since I've pulled back, she's stepped up and talked more and it's really hit me how much she truly has grown into an incredible young lady. I have a new appreciation for her insights as I've allowed more space for her to talk. And it's yet another testament to how allowing for the pause can substantially impact your life.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Be willing to explore all conversation with your kids. Imagine a child not being told how to feel, what to think, or how to act. Imagine, instead, a child learning through authentic interactions with adults who care about them, and them learning the tools to navigate their own emotions, expand their thought processes, and social interaction by real-life engagement.
I have no interest in my child being the center of the universe. I have every desire to help them see how they are a beautiful part of humanity as a whole, and to help them develop their own beautiful spark to shine.
No, the world doesn't revolve around you. Yet wow, you are such a big part of MY world that I want you to recognize your impact in it!
Get to Know Your Kids
Yes, there are still times I'll catch myself talking about the girls as if they weren't there, or speaking for them, or launching off on my soapbox. It happens. We're human. It's not that we eliminate it. We just give them the respect that we're open with them when we get things wrong, and ask for forgiveness.
The more we treat our children as the human beings they are, the more they step into that and become a human who recognizes their impact in the world.
We cannot ignore our tiny beings and move them around like cogs on a wheel, not allowing them to think and speak for themselves, and then expect them to simply flip a switch and they'll figure it out. It takes practice. So our family practices every single day, interacting in conversation WITH one another in our efforts to be caring and loving human beings.
Your Weekly Challenge:
Watch your language this week. Is it engaging in conversation WITH your children, or are you talking at, to or for them?
Have you truly engaged in a back and forth conversation where you are really getting to know what your child is thinking and feeling?
Take the time to have a conversation with your child, even if they are a toddler. And recognize conversation is more than simply the words we say.
Clue into their body language - does it look like they are engaged? Like they feel heard? Have you learned anything new about them or their interests lately? Have you been telling yourself your child is a certain way for so long that you've boxed them in from exploring any other aspect of interest? Pay attention to how much you are thinking and speaking for your child vs. helping them discover themselves right along with them. We all have something different and special to bring to the table - and it's in that where we see how the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us. Namaste.
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- On Boundaries: Your Children Are Not The Center Of The Universe!
- The Steps For Emotional Resilience (Episode 150)
- To Build Resilience, Let Them Bounce (Episode 36)
- How do I equip my kid to “adult”? (Episode 89)
- Are You NOT Entertained??!! (Episode 212)
- Personality Styles
Questions or comments?
Personality styles, marriage/intimacy, parenting, education, minimalism or travel - what is pressing on your mind?
Or, hop on over to the Unschooling Families FB group and ask your question there!