228: Do you TELL with eyes open and ears attentive?

It just makes sense, if you want to build positive relationships and improve situations, it matters what you say and do. Especially in difficult situations, where you and others may not see eye to eye, your words and actions really matter. Every person is merely TELLing a point of view. You TELL whatever you see, hear, and pay attention to in a given moment.

The TELL message has made me realize if you genuinely want to TELL for good – build stronger relationships and improve situations…

You interact with open eyes and see beyond yourself. You really look with your eyes to see the other person; you notice body language; you look to see them. You look at them kindly, softly and with curiosity.

You listen and hear with attentive ears. You realize what is being said to you is more important than what you have to say.

You pay attention to the other person. You notice what may be happening in the other people’s lives and recognizing/accepting it may be different than your own life. Somewhere I read, “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” So true… when we pay attention to others, we are being generous by looking for their needs, who they are, and where they are coming from.

We TELL everything. We teach and encourage depending on how well we see, hear, and attend as we interact. We demonstrate how well we listen depending on where our eyes, ears, and attention are focused. It isn’t until we have eyes open and ears attentive that we show someone love and care.

To build strong relationships and improve circumstances, it requires seeing, listening, and paying attention in the ways described above. Of course, the best case is when everyone interacts with a set of open eyes and attentive ears, but my experience is that is often not the case. However, each person can choose for themselves to TELL with eyes open and ears attentive.

Isn’t it true that our strongest relationships are with those who interact with open eyes and ears attentive? Especially when faced with a difficult situation where we don’t see eye to eye, or like what we hear… opening our eyes and ears to each others’ point of view is how we get through situations and grow stronger relationships. These interactions make us stronger.

So now, I can’t help but think about the younger person in our lives. The youth and adult will seldom see eye to eye about situations.  The younger person does not have the life experiences to possibly see most situations the same way as an adult. We as the adults have so much to TELL them, and we want to have a strong relationship with them. Yet, too often the youth are expected to do more listening and paying attention to adults. What they really need are adults who see, listen, and pay attention to them.

When we don’t see, hear, or pay attention to another consistently, chances are likely this relationship is not getting stronger. When we do see with open eyes and hear with attentive ears, we are more than likely building a deeper relationship with that person.

Today, can we all put a little extra effort into seeing, hearing, and paying attention for good….especially towards the younger people in our lives?  #TELLforGood

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073: T.E.L.L. your child beginning with his or her very first breath

We are talking about how children begin acquiring knowledge with their first breath. From that moment, the child starts sensing the world around him or her. He uses his senses to acquire a knowledge base about his environment and the people in his environment. Even though it is true what adults say, “no one remembers this time in their life,” we must recognize how these interactions are meaningful for the child. The interactions in the first months and throughout childhood are meaning-full.

To begin with, let’s think about what it means to acquire knowledge, that is, to begin to understand. To understand literally means a “putting together,” like the modern idiom, “putting 2 and 2 together.” We gain understanding by joining together thoughts gleaned from practical experience with analytical thoughts already in our mindset. When we learn something new, the ideas brought to mind are simple. But as we experience more opportunities to combine practical and analytical thoughts, more complex ideas develop. With time and experiences, our understanding allows quickness in apprehension as well as an ability to intellectually assess a situation and decide how to respond.

At birth, it is safe to say a child understands very little about the environment and people in the environment. But within the first three months, a child begins to recognize a caregiver’s smile and voice. The child starts to make pleasure sounds and will startle at the sound of a loud noise. He or she increases or decreases sucking behavior in response to a feeling or what he or she hears.

The child is putting together ideas from practical experience and forming analytical thoughts. The practical experiences are based on the senses, what the child hears, sees, and feels. The practical experiences accumulate and help to make sense of the environment and those in the environment. The child begins to respond to the surroundings.TELL_baby

Then, around 4 months old, children move their eyes in the direction of sounds and they notice toys that make sounds. They continue to use their senses to understand the world around them. They start imitating and interacting more as they begin to babble, gurgle, and vocalize their excitement and displeasure.

As early as 7 months old, children begin to enjoy games like peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake. They turn and look in direction of sounds, and listen when spoken to. They recognize common words for things in their environment like “bath,” “shoe,” “book,” or “juice,” and they begin to respond to requests like “want more?” or “Time for bed.” The children use gestures to wave good-bye, to be picked up, or give a high five. They start to use speech to get and keep attention. Around the first birthday, the child begins speaking words such as dog, mama, or papa.

I remember “book” being one of the words my daughter started speaking around 8 or 9 months old. To her, this meant the same animal book for months. We had read the picture book and made the animal sounds for a couple months – well, I made the animal sounds at first. It became her favorite book. Even when I would get another book for us to read, she would respond “No, book” and go off looking for this picture book. I also remember her saying “chicken” to let me know she was hungry.

My daughter was interacting with me, trying to communicate her thoughts and feelings in that moment. She was using her current understanding that she had come to know through her experiences so far in life. As she grew older, she had more experiences to connect her practical thoughts with her analytical thoughts – more experiences to understand and interact with others.

The other day, my daughter and I were out to dinner. We were talking about this, how she would use words such as “book” and “chicken” to communicate. Now in her late 20s, she looked across the table and said quietly “Mom, what about children who don’t have someone there to give these experiences? What if a child doesn’t get that kind of attention? If you had not read me that animal book, I wouldn’t have had a desire to even ask for it. If you would not have used the word ‘chicken,’ I would not have used it. I know there must be children who don’t get that attention.”

Sad to say, we know she is right, and the current research shows how this lack of attention can cause challenges throughout life. This nonprofit wants to help caregivers, especially parents and teachers, with their daily interactions with children so they can develop a stronger knowledge base for the youth in their lives. Today’s post and the previous post emphasize this foundation begins with the first breath.

Teach, Encourage, Listen, and Love children daily so they understand, and develop the mindset to later T.E.L.L. others.


About the author of this post:  Denise Forrest, Ph.D.

Denise is a mother of three grown children and has been a teacher to thousands of students.  She is the creator of the TELL message and Founder of TELL Our Children, Inc. Denise also serves K-12 schools as an educational consultant focusing on mathematics education and instructional decisions for student learning. You can contact her by emailing denise@tellourchildren.org.

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015: The difference between telling a child and T.E.L.L.ing a child

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.

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013: T.E.L.L. and broaden your vision for interacting with children

Becoming more aware is the first step in improving. We can always do better at leading our children toward a better, brighter future.

My experience has been, the more you pause and think about how you Teach, Encourage, Listen, and Love a child, your understanding of the practices associated with positively interacting with children will broaden. This is the mission of T.E.L.L. our children: to broaden a caretaker’s perspective for interacting with our youth.

To begin T.E.L.L.ing a child, start by asking questions to help you evaluate the quality of your interactions with your child. By asking questions, you will pause and reflect on your interactions. You can ask questions such as the following:

#1 – What do I say or do that positively influences my child’s thinking and/or behavior?
#2 – Do I simply react without thinking, or do I communicate with a positive intention – a desire to Teach, Encourage, Listen, and Love?
#3 – Do my words and actions make sense to the child, or am I just assuming it does?
#4 – Do I allow my child to express his or her point of view, or does my point of view dominate our conversation?

The answers to these questions can help you become more aware of the every day interactions you have with children. Learning to Teach, Encourage, Listen, and Love (T.E.L.L.) your child may seem simple, and to some degree it is. However, my experience has been it takes time and attention.

First, we begin by thinking about our interactions. Once we become more aware, we begin to apply and practice better ways. Some people I work with find they need to think more deeply about not reacting (question #2) and only allowing their point of view to be part of the conversation (question #4). Others realize they need to be more encouraging or loving, especially when they are feeling tired and frustrated (question #1). Begin to T.E.L.L. your child by becoming more aware of how you are communicating with your child today.

Some of you may say “my child is too young for me to consider these ideas.” A woman once said to me “this makes sense once my child reaches about 4 or 5 years old.” This caused me ask another question: “doesn’t it always matter what we say and do, even when our child can’t talk back?”

From a child’s first breath, he or she begins accumulating experiences. What you say and do for the child does influence how they feel and learn what to expect. Sure, the infant may not be able to make sense of your actions or express his or her point of view; however, you might ask yourself “Am I allowing this baby to see how I wish to Teach, Encourage, Listen, and Love them today and every day?”

Start today. Ask yourself questions that allow you to think more deeply about your current interactions with children. What do you do well? Where can you do better? Becoming more aware is the first step in improving. We can always do better at leading our children toward a better, brighter future.

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