In the last three posts, we have shared three fundamental precepts for interacting with a child. Namely…
Instead of continuing with additional precepts for interacting with children, I decided to pause for a moment.
I am doing this because a pause is a powerful gesture in any interaction, written or spoken. When you pause, you allow a chance to think more deeply and/or possibly reorganize the set of ideas in your mind instead of just hearing more and more information.
In psychology, the term used to describe what I mean by this pause is metacognition. Metacognition is the process of thinking about your own thinking. It is the process of clarifying and organizing your thoughts and feelings. Metacognition is critical for self-awareness and understanding because you make decisions based on your own thinking. Whenever you are learning something new, you need time to pause and think about your own thinking.
So, in the past three posts, did you practice any of the suggestions? Is there one, or more, that you may need to spend more time thinking and doing in the next few days? Do you have a story, or question, to share with us? Click below and let us know.
This week, I also ask you to recognize the power of the pause in your interactions, especially when the other person is a child. What do you do after a pause? Do you continue talking (sharing your newly organized thinking) or do you also give others a chance to share what they now think? Try and let the pause benefit you and the other person.
Realize when you are interacting with children, they may need more frequent pauses and opportunities to share their newly organized ideas. Children can only keep in mind a limited number of ideas at once. In order to allow the child to think and become more self aware, give them a pause and then get curious. Your pause and curiosity may allow you the chance to better support and guide the child’s self awareness and understanding.
Today we continue to focus on foundational themes for T.E.L.L.ing children, and offer suggestions on how you might act upon the presented idea.
This is our third post in this series. If you are interested in reading any of previous posts, you can click on the titles for the #1 and #2 posts below.
Today’s fundamental thought in T.E.L.L.ing a child is…
#3: The words and actions you display today in an interaction are a collection of your past accumulated life experiences.
As we interact, our mind collects thoughts to provide meaning to the moment. Our mind is seeking ways to make sense of what is happening, what is being said, etc. The thoughts collected are based in relative past experiences. In a new situation, our understanding and thoughts are limited. As we gain more experiences, our minds can collect more detailed thoughts.
Paying closer attention to your thoughts and feelings today can have a positive influence on your personal thoughts and feelings for the future. Equally important, it can have a profound impact on a child’s accumulated life experiences. Paying closer attention to the thoughts and feelings of a child allows you to provide better details for a child’s thoughtful and emotional collection.
Become more aware of the experiences you and your child are accumulating. Think back on a childhood experience where someone positively impacted how you think and feel today. Think clearly about how and why this interaction impacted you. You may even want to record these thoughts in a journal. (In a previous post I shared how an interaction with my grandmother at age 9 still impacts how I think today.)
The next time you interact with a child, take a moment to realize you are not only informing the child’s current thoughts and feelings, you may also be affecting how the child thinks and feels in the future. This week, try to intentionally interact in a way that provides positive details for the child’s mind. Try and intentionally select words and actions that compliment and empower the child now and for the future. For example, look for moments to let your child know:
- I am proud of you.
- You have great ideas.
- You are creative.
- You are so good at…
- You are helpful.
- You are kind, respectful.
- I believe you can …
- I like how you don’t give up …
- You do …. well.
- I love you.
Provide enough details so the child understands why you are proud, what ideas are good, what actions were respectful, etc. You just might be adding to the child’s personal collection of life experiences that he or she can bring to mind in a future moment.
We are currently focusing on foundational themes for T.E.L.L.ing children, and how you might act upon the presented idea.
The first post in this series was introduced Tuesday:
#1: In every interaction you are mentoring and modeling for your child. (Click here if you would like to read this post.)
Today’s foundational thought is…
#2: In every interaction, the words and actions chosen reflect your current heart, mind, and will.
Basically stated, heart is your emotions, mind is your rational thoughts, and will is your desire. Safe to say, a child’s heart, mind, and will are more than likely different than yours.
Try this weekend to…
Consider how your words and actions are being influenced by your current feelings, thinking, and wanting in that moment. Give time each day to evaluate your feelings, thinking, and desires as overall positive or negative. If negative, be more sensitive about how you are projecting your words and actions toward others. Can you find healthy ways to shift your focus to be more positive?
Recognize that your heart, mind, and will in a given moment is more than likely different than your child’s. Diligently seek ways to understand your child’s heart, mind, and will. One way to do this is to periodically pause and ask yourself specifically “How is my child feeling in this moment?”; “What is my child thinking in this situation?” “What is my child wanting right now?”
The words and actions adults choose when interacting with a child influence the child’s heart, mind, and will in the moment and possibly in the future. The better you understand your own heart, mind, and will, the better you are able to support and develop a child’s.
A friend recently commented on how many of our posts have been reflective and thought-provoking in nature. She suggested we provide more baby steps. In other words, answering “How can we practice T.E.L.L.ing a child?”
So, for the next few weeks, our posts are going to focus on sharing a foundational theme for T.E.L.L.ing children, and then show you how you might act upon the idea presented.
#1: In every interaction you are mentoring and modeling for your child.
You can greatly impact how your child thinks and feels in this moment and future moments.
Try this week to…
Consider your child’s thoughts and feelings more than your own, especially when you are feeling frustrated.
Diligently seek ways to notice and nourish your child’s thoughts, attitude, love, and spirit. The easiest way to nourish a child is to give him your full attention and be curious about what is going on in his world, include a gem (a hug, compliment, play along – anything that connects your love and spirit).
Children learn from the adults around them. We are their mentors, their models, their teachers, their encouragers, their listeners, the ones who love them. It is up to us to show them the way!
Can you relate to CE’s experience she shared in our last post? Where she ignored her three-year-old daughter until she had had enough, and then she chose to interact, or as stated overreact (click here if you would like to read her post first).
Today, I’d like to highlight two ideas from her conclusion:
I have to think about this [my choice to ignore what my daughter is saying or doing] when I do decide to talk to her about it. I have to consider her point of view. It’s not her fault I chose to ignore her actions when I did.
I don’t want to ignore the situation on one hand and then emotionally react the next time.
These are powerful thoughts for all of us to remember. No matter how old the child is, he or she cannot read your mind! Have you experienced someone lashing out at you for what appears to be no apparent reason? How does that make you feel and think in that moment?
Now let’s be honest, we all have reasons to ignore what a child is saying or doing, we can’t possibly respond every single time we notice something. That would be exhausting and actually obnoxious for us to do so. There definitely is a time and place; however, as CE points out, accepting it was her choice to ignore the situation allows her to think differently about how to respond.
When you decide now is the time and place, and you recognize your anger or frustration is because you have allowed this to go on for too long, you can gather your thoughts and enter the conversation with better intentions – not to react emotionally, but respond more appropriately for the benefit of the child.
When you change your intentions from giving your child an ear full to instead providing a better picture of the moment, the interaction is more likely to benefit the child AND you. Helping a child create a better picture for understanding this moment allows you to also understand more about your child and this situation. Further, in helping the child understand this moment, you may be also helping the child better understand future moments.
When you underreact, then overreact, you tend to give the child an unbalanced picture of the situation. In my interviews with teens, I often hear them say “most of the time they [parents, teachers, or another adult] don’t even pay attention to what I am doing. It’s only when I make a mistake, then I hear it.”
What these teens are saying isn’t a new idea just now coming to their mind. It is part of their childhood experiences, based on past interactions with adults throughout life. Sure, the majority of the teens acknowledge they have heard compliments from the adults; the complaints just seem louder and consistent in their minds.
How often do we fail to recognize the long-term results of our interactions with children? Let’s face it, we all have moments of underreacting and overreacting. So how can we respond? We can try to temper our words of complaint with words of care and complement. We can try and put a child’s developing perspective in the forefront of our minds. We can show and T.E.L.L. them.
Let’s all try and give our children a more balanced perspective of what they are saying, doing, and thinking each moment … for their short-term and long-term benefit.
In our previous blogs, we pointed out several reasons why interactions between adults and children can often fail. The third reason we outlined was:
3) Adults underreact and then they overreact. Adults may notice a limiting behavior or choice being made by the child and decide to ignore the situation. Later, when it eventually becomes a big enough deal to bring up, the child then thinks, “What’s the big deal? What am I doing differently? What’s different this time?”
I experienced this exact thing earlier today with my daughter.
One way I have disciplined my daughter in the past is to put her in time out. Recently, she’s gotten into the habit of asking me if I need to go to timeout if I’m doing or saying something she doesn’t agree with. After hearing this a few times, I tried to help her understand why it is OK for me to send her to timeout but it isn’t OK for her to send me to timeout.
So today, we were in the car on a long trip. It was kind of noisy and I couldn’t turn around to talk to her face-to-face. So my daughter starts, “Do you need to go to timeout?” I ignored her.
In true toddler form, she kept asking me if I needed to go to timeout — the more I ignored her, the more (and louder) she asked, until I rose my voice at her and said “Enough!” Fortunately, that’s all I said in a loud voice; I remembered the reason outlined above and took a deep breath before continuing. I turned off all the music in the car and turned around for a second and said her name so she knew I was speaking to her. In a calm voice loud enough for her to hear me, I went back over our previous conversation about why it wasn’t appropriate for her to speak to me that way. I apologized for anything I may have said or done that made her angry. I let her know I was busy driving, and I needed to give that my attention.
After I finished talking, I asked her if she had anything to say, and we talked for a little bit more about whatever had been on her mind at that moment. Then we were able to turn the music back on and continue.
It is tempting a lot of times to just ignore my daughter when she’s doing something I don’t approve of, or when I don’t really know how to respond, or handle a behavior or something she said. And in some cases, ignoring works, so long as I keep in mind that I have ignored it and I can’t just react when I have had enough. I have to think about this when I do decide to talk to her about it. I have to consider her point of view. It’s not her fault I chose to ignore her actions when I did.
My three-year-old will persist until she gets to a point where I have to intervene, be it for her safety, my sanity, or another reason. I think the key for me is to not let it get to a point of confusion for the child. I don’t want to ignore the situation on one hand and then emotionally react the next time.