Contrary to popular opinion, children do ‘hear’ what we say. It’s true. Our out loud words do travel into their tiny ear drums.
Try this experiment. Say something you would NOT like repeated. If they are a baby, it will probably become their first word. A toddler will proclaim it loudly in a store line-up. An elementary student will cheerfully share it the next day during show and tell.
Yet other times parents hit a wall, convinced NO. ONE. IS. LISTENING.
We may be tempted to collapse and wave a white flag of surrender.
Maybe we have tried to shape our children’s character. But instead they get bent out of shape. Or we ask our kids to pick up their socks for the gazillionth time. It could likely be after an entire day of refereeing siblings when we long to hand in our whistle and jersey.
Whatever the situation, we have all felt it. Unbridled discouragement, believing we are not getting through.
My good friend Lisa was discouraged recently, with a season of sibling squabbles. She was convinced her words were falling on deaf ears.
Until her children did the unthinkable.
They proved they had been listening all along.
Yesterday while my husband and I were doing yard work, the children were left with the task of tidying up inside. It was a good two hours before I ventured inside to see how they were doing, because all I could hear from outside was laughter and some rambunctious game they were playing. Everything seemed fine.
An hour earlier it had not been.
It turns out all three had the fight of the century, the worst one ever, as each sibling took verbal blows at the other.
No one was left unscathed by hurtful words.
It was so bad apparently, that they all sent themselves to different rooms away from each other to cool down (oh how cute is that?).
When they reconvened in the hallway they decided they needed to do better at loving one another, so they came up with a genius and very specific “OPERATION HAPPY SIBLING CONTRACT” to keep each other accountable.
I was blown away with their desire to treat each other better and to see what they value. It feels like the best gift they could have ever given me. And I love that they thought of it on their own without parental suggestion.
Some of my favourite parts of the contract:
“You can only sometimes pretend to not know one another when the other is acting crazy in public”
“If I am sad everyone available will partake in slime making”
“No fake tickling without consent”
“Warning! if any terms /conditions are broken the violator must pick up all dog poos alone!”
This contract is now hanging on the inside of our front door so everyone can be reminded of it – their idea, not mine!
I am one happy Mama.
children are listening
Mamas – don’t you dare give up.
You may be one moment away from your epic breakthrough.
Tomorrow may be the day when they willingly pick up their socks, or sit still for a picture (just joking! we all know that’s never gonna happen) or push a younger sibling on the swing without negotiating payment. Our children are listening.
Maybe tomorrow will be your day.
Allow time for lessons to simmer. Give children space for a win. Let them work together to solve problems and practice using the tools you have modelled. Believe that your words have made a difference, even if it is unseen for a season. Trust that your lessons will not return void – your children are listening.
And when your victory happens, share it to spread hope. Hope that we really are getting through – one word at a time.