by Matthew J. Elliott
Communication: The Way You do so Means Something to Your Children
Sometimes as a parent it can be frustrating to communicate something to your children or to understand what they are trying to communicate with you. In my previous article for More4Kids, I shared about what we try to teach our children as Christian parents, and communication is a big part of that as well. It’s not easy, especially when all your children are under the age of 5 and are still trying to find their voice. There are times when all you want is to be able to understand what your child is trying to share with you and then there are times when it’s so difficult that all you can do is simply nod your head and ask your child to say it another way.
As Christian parents, my wife and I try very hard to listen and figure out what our children are saying. We want to show them that we care and that we really want to understand what they need, just what we believe Jesus does for us adults as well. Unlike Jesus though, we aren’t perfect and we make mistakes. That can become frustrating for our children. They may have wanted a snack, but we think they want a bath. They may have wanted to read a story with us and we think they are telling us to hurry. They may have wanted a hug and we are chasing after an invisible bug. To be honest, it’s not easy and there are times when we all end up sitting on the couch hugging it out so they will at least understand we care and are all still learning.
Understanding the Struggle
There is a struggle that takes place in almost every parent’s life as they begin to embrace the journey of raising a child. Here is a link to another article by Katy Newton Naas, entitled Parenting: What matters most that gives a bit of insight into this. When we want to understand our children, it’s hard to admit to ourselves that there are times when we can’t. It’s all about learning to interpret the context of what they are trying to communicate. If we aren’t looking at the context of the situation, then we probably aren’t really listening to them and are too distracted.
That’s a good lesson for us both as parents and as believers. When you want to understand your child and it’s getting to that boiling point, step back, look at the circumstances that have led you to that point from beginning to end. If you need to ask your child to point to what they want or have them simplify what they are saying then do it patiently and in a loving manner. It’s important that our children understand that we want to help and that we want to communicate. If a child doesn’t understand that, the end result can be disastrous.
Working through the Struggle
Our oldest has been diagnosed with a ‘Phonological Disorder’ and goes to children’s therapy at least twice a week. Working through this struggle has been an adventure of its own and we have a long way to go yet, but she’s getting there. I know, I know, you’re wondering what the heck that is and you’re probably thinking of googling those two words. Well, it basically means that she struggles with articulating words and leaving certain sounds out of words. She also has a tendency to substitute sounds made in the back of the mouth for those that are made from the front of the mouth. Here is a link to one article from the New York Times about Phonological Disorder if it’s something you are curious about.
Instead of saying ‘school’ she says ‘ool’. Instead of saying ‘daddy’ she says ‘ah-ee.’ Understanding her can be difficult and she tends to get very frustrated when we don’t understand what she’s trying to say to us. What we are learning for ourselves is that sometimes we just need to ask her to slow down and repeat. We want her to know that we are trying to understand but that we just need a little help. Then we ask her to show us what she is referring to and to have her say it in a few less words. “Can you tell us what you want in two or three words?”
As we work through the struggle of helping our daughter learn the correct way of saying certain words, it has served as a reminder to us that there are times when we just need to slow down and listen more in general. While this phonological disorder has its difficulties, it also gives us the opportunity to teach our other children patience and understanding themselves. It may not sink in completely with the younger two kids, but they do understand more than we realize and something will eventually stick.
The End Result
Making it a point to communicate more often with our kids is important in general. As Christian parents, we believe we are tasked with teaching our children to live as Jesus would, but we are also tasked with the job of making sure our children understand what that means. This takes communication. While the struggle is real for any parent who has kids, it is an important part of their natural growth. Who are we to take that growth, both spiritually and emotionally, away from them because we are too frustrated to take the time to ensure they know we do really care about them.
The end result is never really promised, but we can make every effort to ensure the possibilities are there and that our children know they are. Without good, loving communication our children can lose sight of what it means to be a family and I know in our family, this isn’t something we want. Our desire is to be good examples to our children even in the worst of struggles and in the end it’s really all about making sure they know that we love them regardless of their struggles and our own. Don’t be afraid to communicate with them in a way they will understand.