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Saturday, November 3, 2012

Helping Our Children Express Themselves

I honestly think that one of the hardest things for children, ESPECIALLY INTERNATIONAL children, is the art of expressing themselves.

Learning a language is VERY HARD. Some children learn faster than others.  But ALL of them have to learn a DEPTH of language in order to communicate deep thought.  Many times the ages of our children and the ability to communicate DO NOT MATCH, bringing about great frustration and sometimes anger.

I will NEVER forget the night when Miss Alli was first home. (within the first 3 or 4 months)
Mike said, "I have found all the use of that kit!"  (He was speaking of an eyeglass kit that had helped us many times repair eye glasses.) 
But when he said it, I saw Miss Alli's countenance fall and she rushed to her room.  I went to her and found her crying.  Her interpretation of what he said was.. "I have found all the uses for that KID!"
(meaning to her.... he was done with her)
I am SOOOOO GLAD the Lord allowed me to see his words and her face at the same time, or I don't know that we would have ever figured out that meltdown.  She was CONVINCED he was finished with her and she would be moving on!

Communication is SOOOOO IMPORTANT!!!  For hurt children, it is VITAL, yet one of THEIR biggest weaknesses.  Many times they do not understand even what emotion they are feeling!

I did respite care for a family a few years ago and the mom was a Special Ed teacher.  She was so wise to give her little girl a picture list  of emotions, to help her to identify her emotions.
This little one at 3 years old could understand happy, sad, mad, afraid......   I payed attention to that because I was so impressed with what she understood only being home 6 months!

Our kids have to learn language and understand their feelings in a different language. Sometimes it comes out as VERY disrespectful, and we have to help them tweak what they are saying to match feelings and respect.

If we get all bent out of shape by a choice of words,  it will not help our children to learn in the long run.  But if we take each opportunity as an opportunity to teach something new... before we know it, the children will be saying things differently.


I am a firm believer in "Say what you mean and mean what you say!"

With that in mind:  This is an excerpt taken from "The Connected Child"
"BAD WORDS: Good Words
  "You suck!  I feel sad, mad or angry.

"No Fair!"    "I feel jealous of my brother.
"Go Away!"  I feel sad and need a little time alone.
"I hate you"  I feel sad or angry!
THAT sucks!  I feel angry or sad....

Back to my thoughts:

Children can feel overwhelmed and take it out on mom and dad.  Some of these examples are real!
The goal would be to teach our kids appropriate language in order to express frustration!
Instead of "I hate you!" The goal would be for them to say, "Mom, I really don't like that rule!"
It is HARD for them to come up with the right emotions sometimes; and very hard for them to understand WHAT they are feeling, so the one that pops out the most is anger.


A proper goal would be for us to teach them proper responses to emotions.

If your son or daughter is upset and says something inappropriate.... we can say.... "Sweetie, let's try that again. How can you say that differently, with respect?"
OVER TIME... this approach works really well!
Teaching them what different facial expressions and emotions look like will help them to identify how they are feeling and be able to express themselves more readily.

But importantly.... We MUST be ready to listen to them!

For children who are struggling, I strongly recommend a picture/emotion flash card or refrigerator card type system so they can pick out what they are feeling or thinking.

This will make your child feel more in control because they can communicate either with pictures or verbally! And that frustration will begin to diminish over time as they learn to trust. :)




6 comments:

Milena said...

Would you mind if I copy this post to a document in my computer so that I can easily find it? I feel like I need to read this through more than once. So important and well written!

Mike and Christie said...

Yes you may! :)

Milena said...

Thank you!

Alysa said...

I wanted to comment on something not related to this post... When you wrote about a child saying " I do not like that rule" rather than "I hate you!" , it got me thinking about rules. I frequently babysit for a family where the family dynamics are anything but ideal... I have noticed that the mother alot of times will make rules for her own benefit, rather than the childrens (ie, go to your room-- because I don't want to play with you). Seeing this got me thinking alot, so I started "testing" it when I babysat. My goal for myself is to never give them a rule that is a rule given for my own selfish benifit (ie, saying no to them playing outsite because I don't feel like watching them). They are SO much more compliant when I do this, so much so, that the Mother is confused when I say they were good.. Another good thing I have found about doing this is that whenever they ask why I said no to something, I can answer them rather than saying "because I said so". For example, "But why can't I go outside?" "Well, because it is dark and none of us are safe outside when it is dark!" I really think this is something all parents should do.. because it works so well! And, I think it makes alot more sense.. lol!

Annie said...

Alysa, you are one amazing girl - and you are talking here about LOVE. Being willing to extend yourself, to make sacrifices or to do hard or disagreeable things for another.

On the other hand, I feel that I have stretched this way too far, and I'm trying now to understand when I am being TOO loving. To make an obvious example - I might allow the children to eat anywhere in the house and leave their dirty dishes where they drop them, with the idea that I can CERTAINLY extend myself to go up to their rooms and find the dirty dishes, bring them down and wash them. But, I do have a duty to teach them to be respectful of the person doing the dishes. Because I have begun to school myself to always sacrifice for my children, I've found that this can be taken too far. Perhaps sometimes, for example, the children could learn that they need to sacrifice their wishes, for the good of another - if you don't want to go out with them because you don't have warm clothes or have a headache or whatever... But - the communication piece is important here. You can teach them to be kind instead of just say "No!" Alysa, how I wish you lived next door to me!

Mike and Christie said...

Annie,
There is a balance of structure within the home that has to be maintained so children can grow in responsibility.
That cherishing, nurturing love is never too much but it is also just as cherishing and loving to make sure they are taking responsibility.

There were MANY times when Alli was first learning to do dishes that she would act upset and I would stand beside her and encourage her. If she slammed the dishes into the dishwasher, I simply took them and and let her try it again.
We had one rather comical session looking back on it where she put it in and I took it out, she put it in and I took it out, she put it in and I took it out until she finally gave in and put the dishes in nicely. And then she was praised for doing it correctly.
Afterwards we went to the rocking chair and talked about how long it took to do them wrong, and if we do them right, it is done really quick. I encouraged her that I would be there to help guide her and that I was sad one of the dishes got chipped. She felt badly about her behavior and apologized and then we moved on.
She learned from that lesson and did not repeat it!
(thank goodness for my dishes) :)

Teaching personal responsibility IS loving. :)

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