Recently I engaged in a conversation with one of my children, who recently discovered her mother knows a quite a bit for an adult. She is, after all, a certified teenager, so this is quite a compliment. Whether or not her friends are sincere in their adoration is not as significant as the questions they have been expelling with requests for assistance from their friend’s mom who seems to have said something one time that made a difference in one of their lives, which would be me. As I listened to the questions as they came, I recognized something that I freely shared with the group. My observation came from a movie I saw once, some of you might be aware of it, called 300. The scene where the boy, at the ripe age of, I don’t know,seven, is sent into the wilderness wearing what seemed to be a diaper, spear in hand. In hope that her child would return worthy to be called a Spartan, the mother wept as he disappeared into the mist. I recall having a twinge of this feeling as I sent my children to an equally terrifying wilderness called Junior High. It has not escaped my attention that the years between twelve and eighteen are years where children are learning to survive in a less than Utopian society and expected to exit with life skills that will lead them to be confident, contributing adults into the world as metaphorical Spartans as some survive others do not.
The epiphany came as I realized these girls had no relational communication skills outside of the high school community standard. I recognized that it was possible that we had done our girls a disservice by throwing them into the wilderness with the boys who are wired as warriors and that they were having difficulty navigating the warrior world in their communication because they were wired differently. What counsel could I give that would make sense in the female brain that would translate in their communication to the male brain, short of, “Women are from Venus and men are from Mars so get over it?” How could I paint a picture that would be simple and easy for them to apply in much of their male, female relationships that would be more effective than, “Men suck?”, no offense to my male readers. I am an advocate for self-responsibility and creating clear, working communication from an individual to their world. So naturally, I told the girls it was their fault and to beg for forgiveness for whatever they had done, of course I didn’t say that. I know that you thought I actually did, if only for a second. I explained to them how to remove emotion from the situation while still acknowledging that they dhad feelings and that we would talk about those later. I also ushered this advice as girlfriends, they should always direct gossip back to the source of the concern. Easily translated, don’t let them (men) see you flinch and mind your own business.
How do I actually feel about the subject? You don’t want to know. I will say however, that I don’t know that as a society we are not doing an effective job at giving our children real world communication skills that they can apply after they exit the wilderness of the teen years. This is why I have a job, counseling adults to change self-communication habits that they have been practicing all of their lives and simply are not working for them. Our children do need to know how to filter the input that they receive and manage it correctly so that they can interpret the skills that will actually benefit them in the “real world.” Without better interpretation and communication skills, our children cannot filter the thousands upon thousands of bits of data they have coming in and use them effectively. I will be the first to admit that my children are smarter than I was at their age and even still, they understand things that I may never understand. Most parents I talk to admit that kids are prewired for the technological world that they are born into. Having said that, I feel it will take more than simple modeling for our children to learn how to be effective communicators.
If your children are typical, or not, and you realize that they spend less and less time in natural conversation it is important to teach them effective problem solving, critical thinking, and communication skills. Children need to know how to interpret their own thoughts, feelings, sensations, and dreams. They need confidence in themselves to make decisions that will bring them to their greatest joy through knowing how to apply what they have learned from these interpretations. Most of all children need to know how to value themselves. By interpreting the information they are getting from their external world effectively they are more apt to recognize how to prioritize that information into belief systems that inform choices in which they feel personal power, accomplishment and connection to others.
There are games that you can create to assist them as small children that will get them thinking critically about all that is going on inside of them. Here are eight questions that will enhance your child’s problem solving capabilities at any age;
1. How does that feel in your body?
2. What do you feel about that?
3. What do you think about that?
4. How would you like this to turn out?
5. Can you imagine what that would look like, sound like, and feel like?
6. Can you see that happening in your mind when you close your eyes?
7. How did you make that happen in your mind?
8. Do you think you can make that happen outside of your mind?
Of course, you would pose these questions in a way that your child will understand them. The intention of the exercise is to get the child familiar with checking in with itself, visualize the outcome, and then translate that into actions that get them their desired results. Working with my teenage ‘groupies’ I have assisted them to recognize the rules that they have made for themselves which are subconsciously being played out in their physical world and taught them how to change their thinking and feeling habits to create change in their results. I thought that teaching them how to drive was nerve wracking. Watching as they work through painful situations as self-responsible adults is much worse. I say that in the spirit of levity because I am so proud of the way they have applied what they know and how much less drama we are experiencing at home because of it.
Till Next Time,