(Stock photo/Nathan Gleave) The idea is to train our children to listen when we speak. If we’ll do our part, we may just succeed at tuning them in.
Make Your Message Heard, Not Ignored
FEBRUARY 02, 2009Craig Harris, HappyNews ColumnistAre you training your children to tune you out? You can say the right thing at the wrong time and it will fall on deaf ears, not doing anyone any good.
If you walk into the living room while your children are engrossed in what’s on television and begin to explain what you expect of them the next day, don’t count on their hearing any of it. If you tend to repeat instructions to them over and over, they quickly learn this and will tune you out, knowing you will say it again. They will reason that maybe they’ll catch it on the third or tenth time. If you keep nagging them about something they already know, they’ll tune you out. If they learn that you’ll leave nothing unsaid, they’ll tune you out while you’re doing it.
What I try to do is make sure it is a good time to speak, I have my children’s attention, and then say what I need to. That way, I’m not training them to isolate my voice from the din of noise in their lives and tune me plumb out.
Some things are better left unsaid. In fact, a lot of things are better left unsaid.
My daughter had left from school the other day, without telling us she was with a friend. I sat at the school and waited for her for several minutes. Finally, I caught on and realized she must have ridden with someone else. I didn’t panic, I just went home. Sure enough, she met me at the door looking very sheepish and guilty. She was also truly sorry for what she had done and told me so. I said very little. My wife wanted me to lay into her for doing that but I said, “No, she knows what she did was wrong and she feels bad about it. I don’t think she’ll do it again.” My wife, being a woman and all, wanted me to lecture our daughter. I refused.
Some people enjoy going to a church where the preacher tells them how bad they are every Sunday. They get their toes stepped on and feel bad about it. They don’t change their behavior, they just know where to go to do their penitence. I refuse to give that luxury to my parishioners or my children. I want them to own what they’ve learned.
I read a long time ago that the average parent repeats every command twelve times. As you can imagine, children soon learn this. So, they tune us out the first eleven times. It’s like they have a big mental clock in their heads and know when they better listen up. If the house is on fire, we better talk fast.
When my children so much as raise their voices at each other, my wife wants me to jump into their argument and referee. I refuse. Continual interfering in their lives trains them to tune me out. My idea is to wait until I’m really needed before I get involved. In my wife’s defense, though, I sometimes wait too long, being a guy and all. I may even tune them out. That’s why men and women make good parents – we tend to balance each other.
Just remember, if you continually speak to your children in a nagging tone, they will tune you out. If you repeat yourself over and over, they will tune you out. If you speak to them when they are concentrating on something else, they will tune you out. If you leave nothing unsaid, they will tune you out. The idea is to train our children to listen when we speak. If we’ll do our part, we may just succeed at tuning them in.
You may contact Craig Harris through his blog at lcraigharris.blogspot.com.