"Marsha Jacobson does parents a great favor."
Say What You Mean
July 27th, 2009 ¦ Marsha Jacobson -
One of the great lessons I have learned from my children is to say what I mean. Children are experts in many ways and one of these areas of expertise is being able to see right through innuendos. Non-verbal “speaking” has as much impact on kids as verbal.
When my youngest son, who is now grown up, was little, he once asked me, “What are you saying to aunty Dalya?” I was confused because we hadn’t been talking.
“Nothing,” I replied.
“Yes, you always talk to her with your eyes!” he said impatiently. Wow, not only was it true but I was amazed that he could see that.
When I had my first child, I floundered, I agonized, I sweated. I had no idea what it meant to be a parent and somehow I felt that I needed some kind of formal training. Reading parenting books is great and helpful but really, really (and I say this emphatically) the best guide is right before us in our children.They will always tell us when we are doing something right and when we are not. Our job as parents is to learn to listen and to respect what we hear. This does not mean no discipline or teaching. If we manage to find the right frequency for our child, both of these are a cinch.
Children need the truth. They flourish with the truth. This means answering all their questions honestly even if we sometimes have to say, “I’m not going to answer that.” I will often explain to my young daughter that I am choosing not to share something with her but that I will when she’s older.
Truth, however, is not just answering questions. Truth is believing what you say because children know the difference. It is also validating their truth.
My middle son has dyslexia. When he was younger he was not doing well at school and would frequently anguish over this. For a long time, my husband and I would reply that we knew how smart he was despite how he was doing. Firstly, we were worried, which he no doubt picked up on and secondly, we should have explored the way he was feeling because they were his real feelings.
It was not until I was given a book by a friend called “Smart but Feeling Dumb” by Harold N. Levinson that I realized what I was doing. It wasn’t so much the content of the book, which is quite interesting, but more the title which struck home for me. I understood for the very first time how discounting it feels to anyone when they are told that they are not feeling what they are indeed feeling.
So in conclusion, check in with yourself by asking the question, “Am I saying what I feel and am I respecting what my child feels?” It’s a simple philosophy that could make a big difference in how you parent.