How often do you hear, and maybe say, “He needs to learn his lesson!” What are you thinking, and how are you behaving when these words are used?
Are you thinking (then saying and doing) with “I’ll show you how wrong your actions are in this situation?”
“What I see here is not what is best for you, I need to give you an opportunity to possibly learn a new thought or behavior … I need to provide a valuable lesson.”
The first response you are telling someone; the latter you are T.E.L.L.ing someone.
Similarly, what does it mean when you say or hear: “That was a valuable lesson.” Doesn’t it mean you lived through an experience in which you learned something new? You grew personally, and now you realize the benefits of living through a situation. The experience added personal value to your life.
When interacting with our youth, we are the ones who can T.E.L.L. them valuable lessons. Depending on what we think (say and do), the lessons we provide can add value to their life. The child will probably not recognize and say “That was a valuable lesson,” but they are learning all the same. Today, let’s keep in mind our children need to learn their lessons!
To name a few, children need to learn valuable lessons in self-control, kindness, recognizing (and avoiding) potential traps, receiving constructive correction and complements, patience, honesty, and perseverance.
Look for the opportunities to Show & T.E.L.L. a child a beneficial lesson. Which lesson will you focus on today?
Do you have someone you go to for understanding? Someone who looks at all the complexities in your life and reveals to you what matters most in the moment?
Does this person help you feel more refreshed and healed from your moments of uncertainty?
Isn’t this the person who T.E.L.L.s you – he or she Teaches, Encourages, Listens, Loves you.
Who is this person for you? Are you that person for someone else?
Children need someone to T.E.L.L. them as they are developing and maturing toward adulthood. Who is leading them? Who are they following? Could it be you?
Answer this short series of questions with a simple yes or no:
1. Do you want to do whatever you can to help your child[ren] accumulate more positive experiences than negative ones?
2. Do you want to give your child[ren] what they need in order to become healthy, resilient adults?
3. Do you want to help them gain experiences in waiting patiently, choosing thoughtfully, questioning respectfully, and living honestly?
4. Do you want to do what you can to help them face and decide their own destinies?
As parents, we want to do whatever we can to help our child[ren] become their best selves. We do this because we care. That is why it is so important that you think about how you Teach, Encourage, Listen, Love your child[ren].
Do you ever remember feeling misunderstood by the grown-ups around you? Could the following words be ones you may have journaled one time or another when you were younger?
“I am sitting here, wanting to just lie down because it feels like the grown-ups around me see only what I am doing wrong, it’s like that’s the only thing they pay attention to. My parents, my teachers smile at me and say ‘hi,’ ‘good morning,’ and it’s just good if it stays at that. I try to ignore them so they can’t find things to complain to me about, but then I get blamed for ignoring them. Whatever … I try to do what I can, and I’m told that’s not good enough. How come they see all these mistakes? Why can’t they see when I try?
“They just asked me, ‘Why can’t we get along?’ I want to ask them the same question.
“I also want to ask them, ‘Why can’t you look at me and remember when you were younger, did you know everything you know now?’ Didn’t they have to learn as they go? Weren’t they allowed to make mistakes along the way? Am I supposed to believe they have always done everything perfectly?
“I am not making all these mistakes on purpose; I do want to learn, but most of the time I feel like I’m just being told what to do, what to think. … That’s not learning, that’s just obeying.
“Their constant criticisms make me not want to contribute or engage. I wish it were different because I want to contribute. I have dreams of doing great things some day. I know I need to learn some things first. I hope I meet people who can give me some direction, people who will help me learn, not just expect me to obey.
“I mean, aren’t adults supposed to be here to help us out? So much of this makes no sense to me. I’m just a kid.
“I think I have some really good ideas, but no one around me even knows these things about me. They only see my errors and wish to fix them. They are very good at pointing out my errors and threatening me until I do it their way.
“They say it’s for my own good. The way I see it, it’s for their good not mine! I just don’t get it.
“I don’t want to give up. I want to do a lot of great things. I wish I had more people there for me, not against me. I wish I had someone who sees the good things about me, not just my mistakes.”
If you remember feeling this way as a child, don’t you think there could be a child in your life right now who might be feeling this way? What are you going to do about it?
Are you teaching? Are you encouraging? Are you listening? Are you loving?
When you T.E.L.L., your words share your point of view AND more importantly, your words allow you to connect with the child’s thoughts and feelings.
There is a difference in telling your child and T.E.L.L.ing your child. When you tell, you are merely sharing your current thoughts and feelings with the child. You hope what comes out of your mouth is said in such a way the child hears and understands your words. In summary, when you tell a child, you are communicating a one-way message. It is to the child from you. These conversations may, or may not, benefit a child.
On the other hand, when you T.E.L.L. a child, your intent is to try and make it a two-way interaction. Your point of view and the child’s point of view are taken into consideration. You pause and think about what the child might be feeling and thinking in the moment. If possible, you might even ask questions to be sure you are clear about what he or she is thinking and feeling in that moment. When you T.E.L.L., your words share your point of view AND more importantly, your words allow you to connect with the child’s thoughts and feelings.
We have shared a few T.E.L.L.ing stories in previous blogs. For example, one where a mom is trying to get her three-year-old daughter to clean up (click here to read this); or a mom who put her young son in time out (click here to read this story); there is also a story of a father and teenage son talking about lying (click here to read this story).
Do you have a story about interacting with your child? If you are willing to share it, please email us at (contact@tellourchildren).
You may also send an email if you have a question or comment. This is one way we can begin having more two-way conversations with our readers! We want to do whatever we can to T.E.L.L. you about interacting with children. We hope to hear from you soon.
One of the fundamental ideas for T.E.L.L.ing a child is to hear and understand the child’s point of view before you ask the child to hear and understand yours.
Dr. Phil, the television psychologist, has a great line: “You only know what you know.”
I remember the first time hearing him say that line. In that moment, my mind flooded with new ideas. All of a sudden, so much of life made more sense. “That’s right, I only know what I know,” I thought. “I don’t know any more; I don’t know any less. When I learn more, then I know more.”
When it comes to raising children, and in particular with the first child, a common line heard is you don’t get an owner’s manual. You only know what you know, and in the beginning that’s very little! How often we ask:
- “Where to begin?”
- “Am I doing the right thing?”
- “Did that help?”
- “What else can I try?”
We accumulate knowledge as we experience being a parent. We gather ideas from our conversations with mothers, sisters, other relatives, close friends, a doctor, or some other expert. We seek information from the Internet, books, magazines, or television shows. When we don’t know and we want to know, we search for answers. Every parent is actively trying to create his or her personal owner’s manual for raising a child. Our first child teaches us a lot about being a parent. Each additional child teaches us more.
In the previous blog, I emphasized how important it is to first evaluate the quality of your current interactions because being aware is the beginning toward improvement. Once you are aware, you can know more about T.E.L.L.ing our children.
When you begin to T.E.L.L. a child, you also begin to re-examine what drives your conversation. You and the child each have a personal point of view to share. You both only know what you know; however, your adult point of view is based on many more life experiences. One of the fundamental ideas for T.E.L.L.ing a child is to hear and understand the child’s point of view before you ask the child to hear and understand yours. You can start today to re-examine what drives your conversations by asking questions such as the following:
• Do I seek to understand the child, or do I just want the child to understand me?
• Do I give my child a chance to think and share what he or she is thinking? Do I listen?
• What does my child know from our interaction? What does the child know about listening, kindness, patience, perseverance, care, and forgiveness?
In summary, continue to ask questions that allow you to know more about your thoughts and the child’s thoughts – help yourself and them know more because like Dr. Phil says “We only know what we know.”