One of the biggest surprises of parenting is that I would have to change as much as I’m having to change. Daily. I knew that all kids were different. I knew there would be joys and challenges alike. But I didn’t realize that in almost every moment of my parenting, I would have to learn to adapt to their uniqueness. I would have to learn to become more flexible, think outside the box, work well in chaos and under pressure.
The area that challenges me the most is communication. I used to believe I was a good communicator. Until I began to see a pattern with my kids in moments of conflict. I clearly stated my position to my kids only to receive blank stares or words thrown back to me that showed they clearly didn’t understand me.
It was only as I began to notice something about myself that I could relate to one of my sons. When someone confronts me with an issue or a disagreement, I feel my mind is racing to try to make sense of it. Often it is after I leave the situation that I’m able to think clearly and understand how I feel about the problem. Sometimes I begin to see the other person’s point, sometimes I see why I reacted a certain way. But never when I’m in the heated discussion am I ever able to put clear words to my thoughts and actions. And rarely can I apologize right then in the moment. I have to have time for my mind and heart to catch pace with each other.
Now pair this with someone who is very decisive and action-oriented. They think quick, move quick, and are always ready to resolve immediately. Communication becomes tricky.
It’s even tricky when paired with someone who communicates just like you.
Understanding how the other person communicates is key to truly communicating effectively.
In communicating with our kids, the message is lost if we fail to use the method they receive best.
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Jacob and I are very similar in our personalities and our communication styles. We are both of the more sensitive and introspective nature. For years I spent too much time in “talks” and lectures with him where I just wanted him to understand my point. He would become emotional, at which point I realized he was unable to hear my words. I would say the same thing over and over in different ways as clearly as possible and he didn’t get it. Not only did he not get it, he would argue me harder. We both left frustrated and misunderstood.
I took notice of how I come around to another person’s point of view or at least understand why they took their position. It’s when I’m given time to think and process and when the person has spoken respectfully or gently to me that their message gets through to me. When a voice is raised, my ears shut off. (Though I still do this far too often with my kids) When someone uses sarcasm with me, it shuts me down. On the other hand, with gentleness I’m persuaded because I feel that person is not fighting against me, but they are on my side, only seeing a different view than I’m seeing.
Knowing this about myself, and knowing Jacob and I are very similar in these ways, has led me to try this approach with him on a few occasions.
When he speaks disrespectfully, I can tell him gently that his tone was disrespectful and walk away, giving him time and space to come to his own understanding. Usually when I revisit, he has softened, he apologizes, he sees his own sin in the situation. But if I am sharp in response to his disrespect, if I demand he apologize right then and there because I deserve his respect, he’s wrong and I’m right, well, I’m the one who loses in the end. He may be bullied by me into apologizing, I get my way by force, but his heart never had a chance to move in the direction I truly hoped for.
I wish I had figured this out earlier than year 11, but praise God He continues to give us wisdom and insight as we ask Him.
I can’t use these same communication skills with my other 2 children. Andrew wants few words and quick resolve. Give him his consequence and move on. That is his strong-willed nature. Zachary is very fast to see the parts he played, he is quick to seek forgiveness, and he wants the words and conversations that follow as well. All three are completely different.
To parent well, we are wise to become communicators who master different styles. How? Ask God to give us wisdom.
Impactful leaders are effective communicators who have learned that their methods much change depending on who they are communicating with. In the business world, we remember this. On a stage speaking to an audience, this is commonsense. In our homes, we quickly forget. We are tempted to fall into a thought process that says I’m the parent, it is this way, you know me, so you should get my message. Speaking for myself here. They don’t. They are kids. They are adults in training. They are leaders in training.
We are raising leaders! When I think of my parenting from that perspective everything shifts. Everything.
In all of our communication styles, kindness always wins. It is the Lord’s kindness that brings us to repentance. We model Jesus to our kids when we use our kindness to bring them to repentance as well.
Lord, let me not forget that I’m in this parenting thing for the long haul. That I don’t have to win the daily battles to raise these kids. Instead show me how to communicate with each of them in ways they can receive that turn them towards you and not away. I need daily, moment by moment help with this. I can’t parent on my own. Amen
Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?
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