Learning to be a Talker
a) How to Switch People Off
b) Working at Being a Talker
c) Talking to Get behind the Barriers
a) How to Switch People Off
There are people who talk and everyone switches off. Some of those people are simply boring, but others switch people off because they constantly point back towards themselves.
· A parent is constantly pointing towards their child, concerned for them.
There are other people who switch people off because they think they are always right and it comes over like that.
· A parent needs a humility to be able to acknowledge that they get it wrong sometimes and to be able to say sorry.
There are people who never listen to people and are known to be like that and so they frequently are not listened to.
· A parent needs to learn to listen as well as talk.
b) Working at Being a Talker
If we are to avoid the mistakes such as those above, then we need to think about and work at being a ‘good' talker with our children. You may think the contents of this section basic or trivial, but go through it and ask yourself, do I do this regularly with my child.
Already on previous pages there have been lots of things that involve talking with our children but let's identify specific things we can say to our children before we go on to the subject of Listening.
i) Asking Open Ended Questions
· Questions can be a sign of showing interest in a person, inviting them to open up about themselves.
· A closed question limits conversation, e.g. “Do you like cheese?” “No”. End!
· An open question invites further comment, e.g. “What sorts of food do you like?” Longer response.
· Open questions show that you are interested and are inviting your child to contribute things which you will listen to. (And do listen otherwise they will learn you aren't really interested despite your words!)
ii) Bringing Encouragement
· Affirmation for no apparent reason boosts self-esteem, e.g. “You know, you are really great to have around!”
· Everybody likes to hear that and if you love and care for your child and encourage them, that's the sort of child they will be.
· That also invites them to ask, “Why?” Try not to give an answer that is Praise (see below, or the Esteem pages) that is linked with an achievement, which then puts pressure on to be repeated. A nice answer is simply, “Because you're such a lovely person to be with, because you're so warm and friendly and kind and helpful.” Enough!
· Encouragement is especially needed when your child has just failed at something or feels low. The encouragement that is needed here is something that picks your child up and reminds them they are really worth something, and that builds hope that they can try again and may eventually succeed.
iii) Giving Praise
· As indicated above, praise is an accolade or acknowledgement for an achievement. Praise is worthwhile and good because it does acknowledge effort.
· Yes your child is gifted with intelligence, but they put it to good use when they worked hard and achieved a high pass in the exam.
· Yes, your child is naturally gifted with artistic ability but they put it to good use when they worked hard to produce that great collage.
· Yes, your child is naturally gifted physically but they put it to good use when they trained hard and achieved success in athletics or sports, instead of becoming a couch potato.
· Even if your child doesn't appear naturally gifted in any of these ways they still do things that merit praise, in fact for them success may come even harder and require even more effort than their gifted neighbours.
· Praise is not so good for building self-esteem but it does act as a spur to our children to carry on seeking to achieve and develop, and that is good and healthy for most of them.
iv) Offering Advice/ Giving Help
The giving of advice, I believe, waxes and wanes during the life of a child:
· During their earliest years you give lots of advice, often in the form of instructions, e.g. “Take the fork in your left hand”
· As they grow older your advice takes the form of, “Have you tried…..?”
· In their teenage years many teenagers seem to want no advice and indeed reject any being offered, but this is simply them learning to develop their independence. (Thought: a baby spends its first years learning to control its body; a teenager spends it first teen years learning to control its mind and emotions)
· In the years that follow, your child will pretend it doesn't need advice but may surreptitiously seek information from you on how you did things when you were their age.
· The amount they come back to you for advice will be determined by the nature of the relationship you have with your child, and the type of child they are!
· (Oh, bye the way, they will remain your ‘child' however old, however adult, and however mature they think they are. There are still as many years between you now as there were when they were born, and you are still their ‘parent'!)
· Giving help is needed in large measure when they are small, continues through childhood, diminishes through teen years and then often starts again in the upper teen years and later (helping moving, lending tools, helping set up weddings, baby-sitting, and so on).
· In the younger years, and indeed increasingly into the teens years, there is a tendency for parents to help with homework. May I make some suggestions about this as an ex-teacher:
· Don't do your child's homework for them because it will simply encourage them to be lazy and they will not learn.
· If you are up to doing their work (and some parents complain they can't keep up by the time the child is twelve!), if your child is struggling with understanding the work, don't use the homework problem to teach them but make up some similar problem and them get them to apply what you've taught them, to their own homework.
· Where the work is to think through big issues, and you want to help them when they have asked for help, if you see the issues more clearly, use leading questions to lead them to find the ideas or answers themselves. Don't suggest the issues yourself, only the way to go about finding the issues. You want to help them to learn, not do it for them!
v) Saying Sorry
· We have touched on this very briefly already on this page and a previous page, but the ability of you to be able to say sorry to your child when you have fallen short with them, goes a long way to teaching them to become secure enough to be able to say sorry themselves.
· It is insecure people, people with low self-esteem, who find it difficult to face and acknowledge their shortcomings.
· The younger the child is, the simpler the saying sorry needs to be and the shorter the explanation.
· A teenager has the ability to hold a grudge for an injustice (as they perceive it perhaps) and they will only be satisfied when you say sorry and clearly indicate you understand completely what you said or did wrong, and are contrite about it! (But it's a good lesson about humility for you!)