There are many ways to communicate

As a parent, you feel like a broken record, repeating the same words of advice or reprimand over, and over, and over. You might begin to wonder if you should take your child to a hearing specialist. In fact, when my kindergartner came home with the paper ear pinned to his shirt indicating that he had had his hearing tested that day, I fully expected to receive a phone call with the dreaded news that he was hearing impaired! 
     
So often the assumption is made that the kids aren’t paying attention when we discuss things with other adults regarding our issues in parenting, financial concerns, marital difficulties, grandma’s terminal illness, or current events. 
     
Believe me when I say they are listening. We need to remain vigilant to their presence when discussing matters that may be upsetting, misconstrued, or place little ones in a position of taking sides. 
      
Young children take things literally; they are not yet able to distinguish a figure of speech from actuality. Once when I said, “I’m pooped!”, my little son responded, “you better wipe yourself!” An off the cuff remark like, “I’ll die if I don’t get that job,” will instill an incapacitating fear for your life if overheard by your preschooler. 
      
We tend to forget that there are many ways to communicate. What child does not understand a nod or shake of the head, a beckoning finger, an index finger to lips, a scowl, or a sincere look of approval? 
      
It’s when you think kids are not paying attention that they take notice. They realize that when you hang their artwork on the refrigerator, you appreciate the work that went into it. They remember the times created especially for them: the effort put into a special event on their behalf; the flowers, cookies or favorite meal in their honor; time set aside to give them your undivided attention. They even come to understand that the reason you yell when they are doing something foolhardy, is because you love them and want them to stay safe. 
     
Always keep in mind that actions speak louder than words. Children reflect our attitudes regarding prejudice, forgiveness, the environment, our lifestyle. They grow to exhibit the values and actions learned in their home. 
      
A child who’s parents use force, learns that this is how one gets what they want. Parents who smoke cigarettes are that much more likely to raise children who smoke. Ask just about any kid who hates bugs and snakes, and invariably mama hates them as well. You can pretty much bet when you see a little boy struggling like the dickens not to cry, that he has been taught that “big boys don’t cry- crying is for sissies” 
     
There have been many times through the years that I’ve wondered how my kids could possibly have known how beloved they were. Sure I would tell them a hundred times a day that I loved them, but did they believe me when it seemed to me all that came out of my mouth was cautionary or reprimanding? I swear I sounded exactly like the adults in the Charlie Brown cartoons, even to myself: “Mwa mwa mwa mwa mwaahh”. 
     
When one of my kids was in 5th grade participating in the D.A.R.E. Program (Drug Abuse Resistance Education ), he was asked to write about a time when he felt especially loved. His answer: “When my mother stayed home from an important field trip because I was sick” 
      
As my children grow into adulthood it occurs to me that I no longer have to tell them to find something that they are passionate about, to do their job and do it well, to make the world a better place, that there are consequences to every action we take. They have heard all the words. All we can do now is live our lives in the way we hope for them to live theirs. 
-RDW (9-15-10)

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