It’s important to think more deeply about the experiences our children are accumulating every day.
We all are aware how 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 a friend of mine shared was about her grandson Zach who I believe at the time was 3 years old.
My friend went to visit her son’s family around 1:00 in the afternoon. When she arrived, her grandson Zach asked if his grandma wanted to eat breakfast with him. My friend paused and saw that macaroni and cheese had been placed on the table. She 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 stories of a child’s naïve point of view, and the stories certainly are gems. Children are actively accumulating experiences as they grow up, and these experiences give meaning to what 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. The more life experiences our children accumulate, the bigger and more detailed the picture becomes.
It’s important to think more deeply about the experiences our children are accumulating every day. Let’s enjoy the gems our children give us; let’s also be aware how we can T.E.L.L. our children to know better and accumulate more positive experiences. Unless we T.E.L.L. our children, how will they know?
Someone recently asked about the history of T.E.L.L. our children. I thought this would be a good time to share a little background.
In the late 1980s as a beginning high school math teacher, I began to notice too many children growing up feeling not talented enough, not big enough, not smart enough, etc. They came into my classroom having these limiting thoughts, and I wanted to change their minds. It wasn’t enough for me to say “Come on, you can do this!” I began searching for better ways to communicate with them. I wanted to reach them.
Nearly a decade later, in 1993, I returned to school hoping to gain a better understanding of classroom communication. At the time, I also had three children of my own, ages 9 months to 5 years old. They too became a subject of my communication, interest, and study.
The more adult-children interaction stories I collected, the more clear it became that adults, usually unknowingly, were the ones conditioning children how to think and act. I started paying even closer attention to my thoughts, actions, and words while interacting with my students, teachers, and children at home.
The graduate studies led to a dissertation on classroom communication; however, my interest continued to grow. Almost daily I would capture and reflect on the positives and negatives of an adult-child interaction I witnessed. I heard more than once from a family member or friend, “Why are you so obsessed with this?”
Then in 2008, while documenting and analyzing an interaction, I was enlightened with the thought we just need to T.E.L.L. our children when we communicate with them. Instead of just telling them what is on our mind, we must pause and try to Teach, Encourage, Listen, and Love them.
Since that day, I have been practicing and clarifying what it means to Teach, Encourage, Listen, and Love our youth. To T.E.L.L. our youth has become the foundation of my consulting practice, and it also has become a major topic of conversation amongst my friends and family. I continue to document adult-children interactions; however, over the past two years, I have started documenting how T.E.L.L. helps adults be more aware of how they think and speak to a child. I’m excited to continue the T.E.L.L.ing journey, with you.
I share these ideas only to let you know there is a history of deep thought, study, and passion behind TELL our children, Inc. I want TELL our children, Inc. to be a part of helping more children grow up feeling talented, big enough, smart enough, etc. I have witnessed in schools and homes what can happen when adults try and T.E.L.L. children, and it is exciting… for the adult and child.
Just begin. … Try and think about how you T.E.L.L. the children in your life. I’d love to hear your story.
When an adult is faced with an obstacle or challenge, we know we cannot overcome the challenge by ignoring it, 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 are hoping our resources give us new, better ways to think and act. We know it isn’t enough to just read or hear the new idea, we must act on the new ideas, practice the advice. With enough practice, we will start accumulating experiences that allow us to overcome what was once a challenge.
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 our children overcome some of their challenges. Adults are the children’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? 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, and stop them from learning a better way? Could you instead take a moment and T.E.L.L. the child? Could you Teach, Encourage, Listen, and Love to help the child 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 child AND the child 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 Listenand 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.
For example, the story of my grandmother fixing my pillow 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?
The majority of parents I know do Teach, Encourage, Listen, and Love their youth. While raising my children, and still today, I want nothing more than to Teach, Encourage, Listen, and Love them to grow up and become happy, healthy, resilient adults. I am pretty sure the majority of you reading this blog can relate.
What we want to discuss more deeply is how we can tell children, or how we can T.E.L.L. them. That is, we can just say what we want our children to hear, or we can find effective ways to reallyTeach, Encourage, Listen, and Love them. When we begin T.E.L.L.-ing a child, we begin to consciously think about how our words and actions in that moment are Teaching, Encouraging, Listening, and Loving our youth.
I believe Teaching, Encouraging, Listening, and Loving are ideas effective parents think about, feel, and discuss, but there is something special when we think about these four ideas consciously and consistently, when we start asking ourselves am I telling this child, or am I T.E.L.L.-ing this child?
Stephen Covey wrote the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to identify core principles that govern human behavior and effectiveness – such as responsibility, integrity, vision, understanding, and collaboration. Just as he identified core principles of human behavior, to T.E.L.L. our children identifies core principles for interacting with youth.
The purpose of this blog is to provide a deeper understanding of what it means to T.E.L.L. a child. If you have a question or you would like to share a T.E.L.L.-ing story with us, consider sending us a message by clicking on the Share your feedback link below.