Do you have children in your home with few verbal boundaries? I sympathize with you! I also have a challenge on my hands as I teach communication skills to children.
A Classic Case for Teaching Communication Skills to Children
I dearly loved this little girl entrusted to me by the state foster care system. However, she had an embarrassing habit of pointing out people’s flaws. Not quietly, mind you, but loudly, as though she had a megaphone pressed to her lips. Even worse, she did it when she was standing right in front of these unsuspecting people. For instance, one time she said to a woman in a store, who may or may not have been pregnant, “You better get an x-ray because you might have a baby in there!” I apologized profusely to the woman, and we hastily left.
On another occasion, she said to a checker at the grocery store, “You have a tooth that fell out right there. On the side.” The lady tried to ignore her, so she said it louder, “Right there!” emphasizing the last word and pointing to the vacant spot in this poor woman’s mouth. I tried to stop her before she started; but in the end I apologized, and we left.
We were visiting an elderly friend, even though I knew I probably shouldn’t have taken her on that visit. To my utter relief, she didn’t say anything awful to the gentleman we were visiting. She did, however, meet the mailman on the way out and went to great lengths to tell him all about the big, grown up diapers the man had to wear. And, as though that weren’t enough, she proceeded to talk about how she no longer had to wear pull ups because she hadn’t wet the bed in two weeks. I apologized to the mailman.
One day at a doctor’s office she was doing her usual chatter as I filled out forms. I heard her tell the receptionist, “Look at all that cat fur (pointing to my shirt). See it?” As they both stared at my chest, she went on, “We have a cat. Claudia always has fur on her clothes.” Seriously? Will these verbal onslaughts never stop? (For the record, I don’t always have fur on my clothes!)
She also was adept at admitting things about herself that no one needed to know. I heard her tell a friend at church, “I have to have a salad every day and not eat too much cheese, or I get stopped up. You know, stopped up. Can’t poop.” She whispered that last part as though the surprised woman could share everything except that important last part.
One time she told our waiter at lunch, “I have a lot of fluffers today.” Fortunately, the bewildered waiter walked away before she had time to explain to him that fluffers is her word for gas.
Teaching Communication Skills to Children
I realized early on when she was placed with me that she had no filters. None. Zip. Zilch. How does one teach filters? Simply put, she needed to overhaul her TALK–I needed to teach her basic communication skills.
As a place to start, we worked on identifying what is her business that no one needs to know. When she started out with something that sounded like it might take a bad turn, I would quietly say “YB.” “YB” means “Your Business, do not continue and do not share.”
We also emphasized the thought that if something you want to say is going to embarrass someone, make someone feel sad, or hurt their feelings, DON’T SAY IT. Run it through your mind first and decide whether it even needs to be said. We did several things, including praying that God would help us polish up our talk so others saw themselves reflected in positive ways as we spoke.
This child moved on, as foster children do. I always prayed that she picked up something from me about using better communication skills. If she didn’t, she would wander through life, meeting people and shocking them with her inability to stop herself from saying everything that drifted through her mind. I found out from her forever family recently that my prayer had been answered. I am delighted to report that she is a beautiful teen now, headed for a bright future. As a volunteer with an organization working with kids, she even takes pride in teaching communication skills to children in her care!
Busy parents, you probably don’t have someone with that extreme trait in your home. I wonder, though, do you have enough face-to-face conversations with your own children to listen to how they communicate? I’m talking about really listening, down on their level, making eye contact and giving them undivided attention? You may be able to help them eliminate the rough edges from their conversational/communication skills by deliberate focused listening. You will discover other ideas you may want to incorporate into your daily routine by reading my book, Reconnecting with Your Kids, available on Amazon.com.
How about a free book too? I will send you a free eBook filled with exciting fun stories to read to or with your children. It is a great way to begin creating together time and making memories. This book is “Five Fun Animal Adventures from Africa.” It tells of my missionary experiences in Africa as I encountered wild animals, including some particularly mischievous baboons and a grouchy old lion. Each chapter ends with a fun life lesson. Get started by clicking on the book:
Finally, parents, take time to realize what a great job you are doing. Remember to be easy on yourself. You are raising future adults who will go out to conquer the world in great part because of solid gold input from you.
(Excerpt from “19 Minute Parent Power up – Wisdom for Busy, Stressed Parents,” a three-part webinar coaching program for parents hoping to fine tune their parenting skills. Get more information about the webinars here and start enjoying parenting again. Do it NOW. We have our children for only a short time—let’s make the most of it!)