It’s funny – not in a humorous way – how living daily life can change your mind. New circumstances in life – new situations, new people, or a new idea – can start the process of thinking differently. And, as we begin to think differently, we begin to talk differently, and, finally, we begin to act differently.
This changing process happens day in and day out. It develops through our interactions with others and ourselves. Most of the time, the change is slow, often unnoticed. We don’t even realize we are changing our minds.
Everyday thoughts are being planted in our lives as different things happen to us. Eventually, some of these thoughts get rooted and become our actions. That is, what was once a thought later becomes who we are. This happens to all of us, for better and worse.
In my communication study, I have found that once an adult begins talking and acting differently, that’s when others begin noticing and responding. If the change is viewed as an improvement, there are often compliments and curiosity; however, if the change is viewed as a setback, there are disagreements.
There are disagreements because obviously you perceive the other person is making a poor choice and you want them to change their mind, hopefully immediately! Though, unless the other person agrees the behavior is a setback, focusing on the poor choice will get you nowhere. It will not do much for your relationship, either!
You may want this person to change and do things differently right now, but your words will only be met with resistance. This person will not change right now just because you say so! Some individuals resort to rejection, abuse, shame, or guilt to cause someone to change, but the only real change of mind that happens then is about your relationship.
Think about your relationship first and foremost. If this is someone you care about, allow him or her to T.E.L.L. their perspective. Honor their perspective, and they may give you the same respect in return. Don’t try to change them in this moment; try to hear them. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with them. It means you give permission to see this differently, and what matters most is you want to keep your relationship strong.
Truth be told, as I write this blog post, I am trying to practice this with one of my adult children who is over 25 years old. In the past week, I have disagreed with a couple of life decisions this child is making. Actually, the decisions are contrary to how I raised my children to think and act! Maybe needless to say, but my child and I are in complete disagreement!
We are going to be talking on the phone later today. While interacting, I must remember that I can only plant new thoughts for my adult child to consider, I cannot change my child’s mind even if I wanted to. These decisions are based in thoughts accumulated along the way since leaving home! These decisions are based in new people, new situations, and new ideas gathered. I must respect that. I have to keep our relationship as the higher priority; however, at the same time I believe it is important to question a few things! As we talk later today, I pray we understand each other. I pray important thoughts be heard by both of us. I pray as we both think better, we begin to talk better and in time begin to act better. Change IS a developing process.
In closing, when you perceive someone is making a poor choice in life, this is a difficult conversation to have – especially with adults or youth approaching adulthood. Learning to have these difficult interactions by staying focused on your relationship is a starting point – maybe a new thought!
Unlike adults, younger children are way more flexible, influential, and forgiving when the interaction involves a disagreement. Nonetheless, you T.E.L.L. them. You teach, encourage, listen, and love them AND think about your relationship first and foremost. You honor their naive perspective; you don’t try to change them, you try to hear them. You think of the interaction as a chance to plant beneficial thoughts that develop into beneficial behaviors. Keep in mind change is a developing process; it comes little by little.
It’s critical for us to think more deeply about the experiences our younger generations are accumulating every day and figure out ways to teach, encourage, listen, and love them to become their best self.
We all are aware how young children say the darndest things. That’s why there are television shows, books, and websites dedicated to sharing their more innocent and naïve points of view. One such story I like to share is about a 3-year-old named Zach and his grandma.
The grandmother went to visit her son’s family around 1:00 in the afternoon. As she arrived, her grandson Zach ran up to her and asked if she wanted to eat breakfast with him. She paused and saw the macaroni and cheese on the table, and asked, “Don’t you mean lunch, Zach?”
The child, somewhat appalled, responded “Grandma, can’t you see I’m still in my pajamas? It’s breakfast!”
Most parents can share similar stories highlighting a child’s naïve point of view. And, these stories certainly are gems! It’s hard not to smile inside and out!
Every day in childhood, the youth are actively accumulating experiences. These experiences give them meaning to whatever they see, hear, and feel in the near future. Sure, at age 3 Zach still believed it was breakfast because he was wearing pajamas. There will come a point in time when he will learn a new thought and then transform his ideas about pajamas and breakfast. This changes with more life experiences. Throughout childhood, youth accumulate a bigger and more detailed picture of life.
Today, begin to think more deeply about the experiences the youth around you are being accumulated in childhood. Enjoy any gems a young children gives you, and also be aware how you can T.E.L.L. a younger person to know better and accumulate more positive experiences. Unless you T.E.L.L. the younger generations, how will they learn?
We speak the phrase “A picture is worth a thousand words” to mean if we have a visual, we are better able to talk about what we see. We can speak a thousand words, and more.
When you know something really well, you can vividly picture it in your mind. For example, driving a car. How many words and what words would you use to describe the experience of driving a car? How does that compare to the very first time you got behind the wheel, when your picture was not so explicit?
In the beginning, you focused on the details, such as lines on the road, the lights and signs on the street, the gadgets in the car, the speed limit, where to turn, when to brake, when to go, other cars … there was so much to think about! With experience over time, hasn’t the picture about driving a car changed? Would you use the same thousand words to describe driving a car now compared to when you first started?
Every time I ask this question to a group of adults, we agree that the more experience we have, the more we begin to think about and focus on different things. We also talk about how we start to forget, or possibly ignore, ideas we used to think about before. The thousand words we use today to talk about driving are not the same thousand words we used when we first got behind the wheel, when we were a beginner.
Now, think of childhood as a time for beginners, as a time where individuals are creating a picture about living life. They are gaining experiences to allow them to better understand, to create a clearer picture which they eventually take with them into adulthood.
Those of us caring for the youth have already developed our picture from our past and our experiences, and we keep on developing our picture for life. But, our picture and our words, as adults, are often too difficult for a younger person to imagine. They, like any beginner, can’t think like someone who has more years of experience.
That is why I emphasize asking children to first share their thoughts and for you to listen. It is easier for you to imagine their picture, than the other way around.
When we T.E.L.L. (Teach, Encourage, Listen, and Love) the younger person, we don’t expect them to listen and imagine our picture, instead we teach, encourage, listen, and love the child so we can better develop their picture.
Whose picture dominates your interactions with the youth? Have you thought about the thousand words the child might use to describe the same situation?
When we are faced with an obstacle or challenge, we know it cannot be overcome by ignoring it or hoping it just goes away. We must try and figure out something to move us in the positive direction.
One option we have is to look to our resources: other people, books, or the Internet. We seek these resources hoping to receive new, better ways to think and act. It isn’t enough to merely read or hear the new idea, we must act on the new ideas, practice the advice if we want to address the limitation facing us. Then as we practice, we will start accumulating experiences that allow us to overcome what was once a limitation to us.
This makes sense for an adult who has experience in overcoming challenges in life, but let’s think about this in the context of helping younger people overcome some of their challenges. Adults are the youth’s main resource; we have the information children may need to overcome a challenge. So here is a question … What are your tendencies when your child is facing a challenge?
Do you continually step in and take care of the challenge for them? Of course you do in emergency situations, but do you step in when maybe you shouldn’t? How can the child experience overcoming a challenge if we never allow them to? If you always save the situation, aren’t you allowing the child to ignore it, and aren’t you stopping them from learning a better way? Could you instead take a moment and T.E.L.L. the young person? Could you Teach, Encourage, Listen, and Love them to work through the challenge?
Or are you like the expert? Are you someone who will take the time to explain clearly and precisely what the child must do to overcome the challenge? That is, do you let the child know what he or she must do to fix the situation? If only they would listen, right?
Let me ask another question: How often do you follow expert advice? If I may guess, it is when the advice makes sense to you and you are disciplined enough to act and practice the advice because you are self-motivated to get the result. So unless your advice makes sense to the younger person AND he or she is self-motivated to get the result, this practice is also more than likely not helpful.
When a child is facing a challenge (and it is not an emergency), this is a perfect moment to Listen and hear how the child is feeling and thinking. By Listening, we can give the child an idea that may make sense to them and self-motivate them to improve the momentary limitation.
For example, the story of my grandmother fixing my pillow (Post #171) I recently shared comes to mind. She could have ignored my mistake, made the decision to just let it go because she did not want to watch me get upset or give her time and effort to help me correct my ways. She could have corrected the mistake herself, not allowing me to think about and correct my own mistake, or she could have merely pointed it out and left me to take care of it on my own – which would have left me feeling frustrated about having to do it, not realizing the benefits of thinking differently about this situation.
How can you respond the next time your child is facing a challenge? How will you respond?
Almost weekly, I hear an adult saying something along the lines of, “When I was a young ….” and then they finish the sentence describing how things should be done the same way today. They are confident that the many issues youth face today should be addressed in the same way as “back then.”
Honestly, this thinking is precisely what stops many caregivers from developing strong and disciplined youth today. The thinking, “if it worked for me, then it should work for them” is a fallacy.
Youth today are growing up in a completely different world than their parents did. Let me just name a few of the ideas we tend to agree upon in these interactions…
Youth today are dealing with everything being public, sometimes instantly, through social media. Any news, positive or negative, is easily placed on social media and spread. It’s no longer a matter of three or four people gossiping face-to-face; it’s ten, a hundred, a thousand times the number of people who ‘know’ – even people who the youth don’t know personally can ‘know’ by a simple post by someone else. Would you be able to handle that as a child? As a teenager? As a young adult? Youth are on high alert about what is being posted publicly.
Television. The shows that I remember watching in my youth: “Bewitched,” “My Three Sons,” “Brady Bunch,” “Family Affair,” and “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Later, I recall “Rockford Files,” “Matlock,” and others. Those are nothing close to the reality shows of today. I’m not saying that every reality show is poor; however, television today is different, very different. Youth are being fed information that us older adults did not see at such a young age, and the number of ways to watch this information are far greater than when the caregivers were growing up.
Terror. Fears range from kidnapping to shootings – which was not much of a thought for us caregivers when we were being raised. It was a rare occurrence; now it’s part of our everyday lives.
Youth stay indoors more today than they did in years past. As a result, fewer caregivers are interacting with the youth – and the caregivers are tired!
These are just a few of the differences comparing the childhood of today vs. the childhood of the caregivers. There are many other differences when it comes to schooling, sports activity, church, family dynamics, etc. We have to meet them where they are. Start recognizing and accepting how their life is different than your upbringing. T.E.L.L. them better by getting to know more about them.
The previous blog made the following statement: “When you think better, you know and live better.”
Why is this true?
Well, think about it.
You can’t DO better if you don’t KNOW better.
You can’t KNOW better if you don’t THINK of another way.
Look at it this way:
Think it –> know it –> do it –> live it!
If you’re living something that doesn’t seem to be working, what should you do?
If you don’t know any better, you’ll keep doing and living the same thing, wondering why things never get any better.
Take that wonder and turn it into reflection about your situation.
Think about WHY the situation is the way it is. Get to the real root of the problem and think of new ways to solve it that are different than what you’ve been doing.
In other words, TELL yourself better!
Teach, encourage, listen, and love yourself to a better way.