I started to write about knowledge being power but realized that before we could talk about it, we needed to talk about communication first. I have to remember I’m an old hat at this but together we are taking baby steps in learning to parent.
Let’s start with nonverbal communication. After all that’s how all of us began learning.
We start by feeling and sensing our way around things. Things and people made us feel happy, excited, bored, afraid, full, warm, and many other things. None of those feelings had a name. We just knew we were more or less comfortable. Our comfort zone as we now call it.
As you take care of your child you begin to start understanding what they are communicating to you. Trust me the more you pay attention to the subtle clues of what they need you to know, the less they will have to go to extraordinary means for you to “get it”.
If you were left helpless, alone in a foreign place you might start asking softly to strangers, “Excuse me, I’m lost” and shrug up your shoulders and try to look bewildered. If the strangers continued to bustle past you, you might wave your arms at someone and say “Help!” clasping your hands together with a pleading look. If they continued to leave you alone and it got dark, you might start screaming at the top of your lungs, “GET ME OUT OF HERE!” and start to cry hysterically.
Your children are helpless foreigners in your world.
Suppose you were lost at sea on a Tropical Island. You’d hope the natives would see your sunburned sandy body and offer you a bath. You’d wish they would assume you were hungry and offer you a banquet of food to try. You’d probably start with the food that appealed to you by sight or smell. You’d take a bite and immediately know whether it was something you wanted more of. You’d point to your bowl and smile. Maybe make a hand motion showing you wanted more in your bowl. On the contrary if you didn’t like it, it might be hard to even hide the look on your face from your hosts. It takes time and practice to hold something you don’t like in your mouth and smile.
You’d be patient with yourself as you learned the language. You would want them to say the words they were trying to teach you over and over again. Clearly and slowly. There would be days you’d be really frustrated that they didn’t understand what you wanted or that you couldn’t understand what they were telling you.
You would become frightened if they kept telling you something louder and louder as if that would help your understanding. You’d make mistakes.
Your baby will have those days. It’s your job to never give up trying to understand what they need you to know and teaching them how to communicate with the rest of us on the island.
I’m a natural talker. It wasn’t hard for me to narrate life. I’m still wording the experience as we go. The more you talk around your children and describe what you are doing, the sooner they will have words to use. And the sooner they have words to use, the easier communication can become.
But there is still a lot of communication happening before that.
Touch might be the first language. Kisses and hugs and caresses feel good. It’s hardwired in us. Being held by someone you love never loses its appeal. We feel safe and protected and not alone!
One of my prouder teen moments was when I was working in my dad’s pediatric office. A new mother came in and her baby was inconsolable in her arms. I took the baby from her and holding it like I had been taught, the baby calmed down. The baby could sense that I wasn’t afraid. I wasn’t trembling. I was holding it firmly and confidently. I rocked it in a soothing way that the baby might have been use to in the womb. I held it close. I didn’t have a worried look on my face. I was smiling and cooing.The new mother was amazed.
The more your baby feels safe, the more confident they become. The tone and words you use to describe new things and experiences can shape their view of them.
Be careful how you tease and laugh at your baby’s fits and starts at things. If you mock your child, they are going to shy away. Those words and tones you are using aren’t giving them much comfortable feedback. If you are smiling and praising even their smallest attempts they will try again! We are wired to enjoy praise.
Honey going further than vinegar is true of children too.
Your children are born little body language readers. They are reading every grimace, sideways glance, and sigh of dismay and disappointment you make. When you are obviously upset and you tell your child, “Nothing’s wrong” they get confused. They KNOW something is wrong. They will learn one of two things; that you are supposed to lie about your feelings or their gut feeling about the truth of things is wrong.
You don’t want that. We are trying to teach our children the truth of all things.
If you are upset, you tell them you are upset. Then you might say how much better you’d feel with a hug. They’ll hug you and you WILL feel better.
Let your children comfort you back when you need it. Sometimes we feel alone and we can tell them that. “I was feeling alone and discouraged. Thank you for that hug. Mommy feels stronger now.”
We are in this together. We want our children to be compassionate and comfort those they perceive are hurting. If you rebuff them and their ability to comfort you , you are robbing them of practice in comforting people. You teach them their natural instinct to comfort is awkward and wrong and that’s it’s shameful to need help and be vulnerable.
As they grow, their vocabulary grows. You’ll be able to ask them more and more to use their words. “I know you are upset, I see you crying. But can you help me understand why? Tell me with your words what’s wrong.”
You will also have been using the words please and thank you. Especially if you care what society and grandma will think of your children.
Although we may think please comes first, it doesn’t. Please is a request. We don’t have much we can actually request from them at this point. It’s about being grateful for what they do.
“Thank you for putting your toys away” “Thank you for being soft with the kitty” “Thank you for using your words to help mommy understand”
Please comes in a lot of tones and is harder to learn. Asking isn’t a privilege between us and our children. They may need to ask the shop owner politely, but they should just have to ask us. Holding anything they need above them saying, “Say please.” is wrong and degrading.
“Mommy I’m hungry, I need some food” isn’t a rude request. Eventually as they hear us say it, it will become second nature don’t worry, but I’m more concerned how WE say please.
“PLEASE stop that!” Can’t screech or yell please.
“Pul-eeze, are you kidding me?” Can’t be sarcastic.
“Please, please, pleeeeese!” It’s supposed to be a polite word, not a grating nag or whine. We aren’t teaching begging. In a perfect world no one would have to beg for their needs.
Please and thank you are some of our first words that represent ideas. You can’t point to a please and thank you. That’s why we use words and don’t just continue to grunt and gesticulate. Words have power to communicate invisible things and feelings.
They have creative power.
According to Judeo/Christian tradition the world was made by the WORD of God. He just said it and it was so. He said “Let there be light” and there was light.
He created with his words. He chose the right words. He was specific. He never said things he didn’t mean.
Mormon theology holds that we may someday in the afterlife be creators of worlds with our words too. Like the best things we learn in all religions, it doesn’t matter whether it happens in the afterlife or not. Truth works NOW. We already do create worlds with our words.
Maybe that IS what all this practice is for. Perhaps before we have the power to truly create our own worlds we need to get all our bad and impulsive writing out-of-the-way! There are many worlds I’ve entered in books and films that I am grateful stay there.
The Bible has much to say about choosing your words wisely and of their power.
Matt 12 :36 reads,
“But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment”
The softer revised version simple states, “Man will be judged for every careless word he utters.”
No wonder I’ve been nervous to start a blog! I took that to heart. I truly believe in what I’m saying and why I called this KT’s Kind Words. We CAN hurt people with what we say. Even if we don’t intend too. If we pass on words to others that we don’t know to be true we could harm someone.
Matt 5:11 says,
“Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.”
Read that one over again. Not the pork, the wine, or the marijuana. It’s the words coming out of your mouth past your heart that make you dirty and not fit for a peaceable kingdom.
My children were taught early on that their words had power. I was teaching them with the assumption that they might be gods one day. If you are God and you say “Damn this hammer!” after you hit your thumb with it, there goes your hammer. Off to freeze in hell.
If they said “Damn you, mother” I’d be gone. Better watch who and what you are damning. And be careful who you ask your God to damn too!
There is a lot of contention in homes about the language our teenagers use. We don’t want them using profanity. But do we really know what profanity is?
characterized by irreverence or contempt for God or sacred principles or things; irreligious
We have to be careful when we call things profane that aren’t.
I was a mother that would correct even visiting children to say, “Oh, my gosh”. I’d explain to my children that we respected His name. And as for using it in vain I explained, just like the boy crying wolf, it was important to mean it when you called on the name of the Lord. Just like calling your mother’s name. You better really want something if you’d made her come running.
But those other words we call profane? The word s%*t and a#%hole I would explain are just ugly words. I don’t want to picture either of them. Please find a prettier word. But if they wanted to say it to themselves in their room? Go ahead. You are going to ask them to not do a lot of things. Words in their room alone is not a necessary battle.
I believe in teaching them those words none of us should use. Hateful words. I explained why they are hateful and why they hurt.
And of course there is the F word.
That word puts up a wall between so many people. I just never let it bother me. I may have enjoyed it on an occasion to be honest. When you hear someone say that word, they are expressing emotion. It’s almost a nonverbal word. It’s a grunt.
But I don’t find it profane. I don’t think people are disparaging God when they use it. They are more often expressing incredulity about the actions of their fellow-man.
Don’t let that word stop the communication between you and your children.
Have a talk about the words we use in mixed company and polite society. You may explain there are different languages people speak in different arenas. But the word isn’t evil and saying it doesn’t make you evil.
And you continue to teach them other words. The more words they know, the more clearly they can express themselves. The more they will understand what people are saying to them.
My oldest son and I love talking about words. Even in the midst of an argument.
“You just said something. I take that word to mean that. Is that what you meant?”
“No, I meant this”
“Well, that word doesn’t mean that, this word does.”
“Oh. Maybe we don’t disagree after all”
Then we high five to mutual understanding and clear communication.
The point of words.
Once they know the words we can teach them what we know.
That knowledge is creative power.
And that’s the next post!
Ps. I would kindly suggest if you like what you read and haven’t read the rest of my blog that you start with the post https://ktskindwords.com/2013/12/28/begin/. I’m writing a book backwards.