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Karen Brennan
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Talking less and noticing more

Monday, May 12, 2014

Talking Less and Noticing More:  In the next sections of “Simplicity Parenting,” Kim Payne addresses parents’ communication with their children and reminds us that the more we say, the less we are listening.  The world of the child is very different in some ways than the world of the adult.  The child is interested in doing, exploring and learning. They are at a time in their lives when they learn best from direct experience.  The two worlds do intersect, of course, but “there are, and should be, conversations and topics that are for adults only.  There are some subjects that obviously aren’t appropriate for young children to hear, but the lines are sometimes blurry.”  What is important to remember is that, even more than the words that we say, the children pick up on our underlying emotions.  Sometimes we feel that honesty is the same thing as full disclosure, but full disclosure may not meet a child where she is developmentally—it can be burdensome for a child to have to deal with too much information, whether in the form of scientific facts or our own adult concerns about our lives and the world.  Boundaries make children feel secure, and it is up to us to draw those boundaries for them, although undoubtedly we will make mistakes.

Without Criticism or Compliments: Can you look at your child’s drawing and acknowledge it without talking, just take it in?  Or just notice something about it—“you filled the whole page” or “wow, there is a lot of blue in this picture.”  We want our children to feel good about themselves; we want to encourage and acknowledge them, but Kim tells us that “in a noisy world, quiet attentiveness speaks louder than words, and it gives a child more space for their own thoughts and feelings to develop.” Praise can be wonderful to receive, but it can also be stressful.  I have sometimes been praised for something I know I didn’t do well, or didn’t do my best on.  It actually makes me feel bad about myself or disappointed in the other person when that happens.  Always having to do a fabulous job can take the fun out of doing it.  Also, it can teach a child that they need to do things to please other people instead of themselves or instead of doing something for its own sake.  Once again, it is not always clear where the line is between support and over-praising.  I offer it more as something to consider.  Also, if you haven’t tried just noticing (or even if you have), give it a try and notice what happens.

Do you love the times you live in?: “Children need to know that theirs is a good world.  They need to feel that, sheltered by those they love, they are where they should be.  They have a place, in a time and a world of hope and promise.”  It is easy for us as adults to feel depressed, angry or just overwhelmed by the problems in the world over which we have no control.  A child’s world is much smaller than ours.  Children live in the immediate environment—first it is as small as their immediate family, then grows to include their neighborhood, their school, etc.  There will be a time when it is right for them to take on the problems of the world, later.  Now, “a child is preparing for world issues in their own ways, in vigorous interaction with their immediate sensory environment, their childhood world.”  It is sometimes hard to love the times we live in, but there are many things to love about our time, and it’s important to remember them for the sake of our children.