Are we even communicating?

father son talking
Rearview shot of a father and his son bonding on their porch at home

Talk. Conversation. Communication. My last blogs on talk and conversation led me to communication. Have you ever asked this “Are we even communicating?” Or how about “Is anything I’m saying getting through?” As parents I KNOW you have asked yourself this at least one time.

Communication can almost be a four letter word, right? Every self-help book, leadership seminar, guidance and discipline book – EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE in EVERY part of our life seems to share about the importance of communication. If you’re like me, (please say you’re like me) then I know you have thrown your hands in the air and exclaimed “But it’s TOO hard!”. I’m angry, I’m exhausted, I’m hungry, I’m all these things and frankly I don’t WANT to communicate sometimes.

What do I do? I stomp off to the bathroom. Splash cold water on my face and look up. ARGH. Right then it hits me. That person in the mirror is the adult. I’m the parent. It’s my job to muddle through all the “I don’t want to”’s and make the communication happen. Me. It’s up to me. I need to talk, converse and communicate. All three.

The definition of communication has these words: exchanging, sending and receiving. This implies that in communication you will be the recipient of some type of information. Therefore, you will need to listen in order to receive it.

I freely admit, there are times when my children try to converse with me and I am not listening. I may be looking at my phone, writing a blog (oops) or watching tv. My children don’t look at my schedule and say “Oh I think I’ll have a conversation with mom at 5:17 right in between work and exercise.” They pick the moment that THEY are ready to converse. 7:28 a.m. (in the rush of school prep) or 11:26 a.m. (their lunch break but not mine) or even 10:06 p.m. (after my phone is on silent but their college studying is just beginning). Sometimes I remember to physically or figuratively splash the cold water and engage in the conversation. Other times, my child may have to say “mom did you hear me?”.

No parent is perfect.

There are going to be missed opportunities to have conversations with our children. However, no matter the age of the child, when they have something to say, and we the adult take a moment to converse, the more opportunities we will continue to have as they grow.

Additional resources can be found here.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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We need to have a conversation

Shot of a mother and daughter at home
Shot of a mother and daughter at home

Talk. Conversation. Communication. My last blog hinted that I had some things to say about these three words. We started with Talk. Now we need to have a conversation.

Sometimes as adults we struggle when it comes to having a big conversation with our children. Do we tell our children the bad news? Should we sit down with them and share about the scary situation miles away? Do we explain in depth about our families change of plans? Often times we choose what I call the ‘Just say nothing at all and see if they ask’ option. C’mon you know that option too!

I also know that plan has backfired on me many times when my children start the big conversation at a random time when I’m not prepared and often when others are in ear shot and are suddenly also waiting to hear what I have to say. “Momma? Just how DID my brother get out of your tummy?” or “Jessica told me that my cat didn’t go live at the farm but that daddy took it to the vet to die.” or how about “When the school shooter bursts through the doors at our school we are supposed to hit them with our books”. Yeah THOSE conversations. The ones that you need to have note cards and a glass of water to get through.

Admittedly these conversations are difficult. Tough to get through. And yet may I suggest vitally important to creating and maintaining a healthy relationship with your child. Tackling the big topics together (yes, with note cards and a glass of water if needed) shows your children that you are interested in both their questions and their concerns. They likely have both. There is no better way to show children that you are there for them when you tackle their big questions and concerns together.

So what stops us? Often it could be as simple as us not feeling like we have all the answers. Or feeling unsure of how to even start the conversation. Guess what? That’s what the note cards are for. The water is for dry mouth. It is always alright for us to use notes, consult with others or to even say “I actually don’t know”. Having a conversation doesn’t mean that we have to know everything before starting. Sometimes we can learn along the way as we go through the process of conversing.

Big Conversations. Scary at times? Yes. Important to a healthy relationship with your child? Absolutely.

Find more resources here.

 

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Can we talk?

father son talking and walking
Father and son in public park

Talking. Conversation. Communication. I have been having some thoughts on those three words recently, so I thought I might come here to share them with you. This may take several posts but I don’t think I’m the only one with these thoughts.

Talking. Let’s start with the obvious one. And let’s just go ahead and start at the top with the big kids. I’m talking about you and me. The adults.

Talk. We talk out loud. We talk with our hands and body language. We even talk inside of our head where no one else can hear. Sometimes as a parent don’t you feel like you are constantly talking and no one is listening? I can’t help but wonder however, if the reason we think no one hears us is because the talk from our mouth isn’t matching the talk from our body language or even the talk inside our head?

     We say out loud, “Stop IT!”

     Inside of our head we hear “Stop jumping on the furniture”.

     However, our body language shows that we aren’t really interested because we are looking at our phone.

We, in fact, are talking, but no one is listening. Could it possibly be that we are talking but not truly communicating? When we talk are we truly conveying the message we desire.

Example: Looking at my phone I say to the child, “Stop IT!” OR I turn and look at the child and say, “Stop jumping on the furniture and go jump outside”. It seems obvious and pretty clear cut that the second option actually conveys what we want to say. So simple, yet.

I actually had this exact scenario happen in my grown up life with another adult. I was the one saying “Stop IT”. The other adult looked at me and said “Stop what?”. I was stunned. Wasn’t it obvious what I was asking? Actually, no, it wasn’t obvious to anyone but me. Since that time I have found myself constantly recognizing and identifying what I call the ‘Stop IT’ syndrome. Some type of talking that is too vague to the listener but completely obvious to the talker. In the end however, no one is actually communicating.

So how do we remedy this ‘Stop IT’ syndrome? It’s up to us the adult to take the time to be clear about our expectations. Why are we making the request? “I don’t want the furniture to break or have you get hurt.” What is the desired outcome and what is it we what to see instead? “I don’t want you to jump on the furniture, please go jump outside”.

Talking. It seems simple but actually takes some energy and thought to have others hear what we say.

Check out our Guidance by Age resources here.

 

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Understanding Temperament Helps with Family Relationships

Guest blogger Malisa Rader, Human Sciences Specialist, shares insight on supporting children’s temperament.

 

Childrhomework successen’s temperament develops early in life and is influenced by genetics and experiences. When parents have an understanding of their child’s unique temperament, they can tailor their approach to best meet their child’s needs.

Think about different babies you have held. Some snuggle right in while others are more active in your arms. That’s temperament. The more parents accept their child’s temperament and learn to adapt, the more they create family harmony.

Researchers have found that the main factors contributing to different temperaments include:

  • how strongly children react to people and events.
  • how easily children approach new people or new situations.
  • how well children can control their attention, emotions and behavior.

Parents also must keep in mind their own temperament. For example, if both parents and child react strongly to experiences, a cycle can begin that continues to escalate. But if a parent can remain calm, this will help break that cycle.

Adults can also learn to anticipate issues before they occur and avoid frustrating themselves and the child.

For example, if a caregiver knows a child’s temperament struggles with changes to the daily schedule, the caregiver can plan snacks and breaks on days that might not follow usual routines.

Parents need to continually remind themselves that there are no good or bad temperaments, but work to see a child’s strengths and places where they might need more support.

I offer the following suggestions to support children’s temperament:

  • Note how your child reacts to new and unfamiliar situations. Allow more time for transitions if needed.
  • If a child’s activity level is high, be sure to have extra activities available for times such as waiting at the doctor’s office.
  • Give a persistent child permission to step away from a challenging activity and come back to it at a later time.
  • For a child who is easily distracted, create a quiet place for completing homework.
  • Listen patiently as “high-intensity” children share feelings.
  • Check in frequently with “easy-going” children to stay in tune with their needs.
  • For children whose behavior is challenging, set clear and consistent limits rather than using harsh punishment. Spell out any consequences in advance and make sure that your discipline strategy is fair and is geared to encouraging appropriate behavior.
Mackenzie DeJong

Mackenzie DeJong

Aunt of four unique kiddos. Passionate about figuring how small brains develop, process, and differ. Human Sciences Specialist, Family Life in western Iowa with a B.S. in Family and Consumer Sciences and Design minor.

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