About a year ago, the Hare started taking longer bike rides. Not just around the small block, the medium block or the big block: he wanted to stretch his wings a little more. The first few times he was great: he went, had a bit of a scoot around and came back fairly quickly. Then we had the not coming home on time incident. He was eight, I had a baby and a four-year-old, it was time for me to be in the kitchen preparing our evening meal. It didn’t go down well. He was fine. He’d just lost track of time, as kids do when they’re living in the moment. We talked about trust and how it was so important. He didn’t get to go exploring for a while.
And trust works both ways. One of the key things I want for our children is that they completely, utterly, deeply trust Craig and I. There are several aspects to trust, so in the interests of brevity I’ll only deal with one here.
That they trust us to give them accurate information.
Children are largely non-verbal…yes I know some talk alot…but the language paths in their brains are like small bumpy back roads rather than the super-highways we have as adults. So, to understand us, they rely on our body language first and our words second. When our body language and words don’t match, I believe, it creates a moment of distrust. Our body says this, but our words say that. They can hear our instruction, and they can also see our behaviour doesn’t match the instruction. They can’t believe our words because our bodies are sending a different (sometimes opposite) message.
Mis-match these often enough, and how can they truly trust we are ever providing correct information?
(Perhaps this is part of how generation gaps develop? If they don’t feel they can rely on our information, why would they follow our advice?)
So, here’s a couple of leading questions…
When you say you are going to leave to go somewhere – do you leave right then? Or do you spend time chatting for a bit longer, then end up shouting at them to stop mucking around and come along, quickly now… Or do you tell them you are leaving and have them organised, only to disappear yourself to finish some task or grab something?
1. Give them a count down to leaving (if our older boys are not within speaking distance we just hold up our fingers now, and they know it’s 10 minutes, 3 minutes… whatever…until leaving time…) then go when you say you’re going.
2. Get yourself completely organised and then give them the time warning, something like, “I’m starting the car in 5 minutes.” And then do it.
Second leading question, along similar lines…
When you are about to leave somewhere – do you tell them you’re leaving, turn and go – or do you tell them you’re leaving and then walk towards them?
Could you tell your children you are leaving and turn away from them, and actually leave?
Word of caution. When I began consciously matching my actions to my words, our children didn’t always follow – it took a month or so for them to unlearn the established pattern of behaviour and relearn that I really meant what I said.
Also, some children take a long time to learn to follow. So, if this doesn’t work, perhaps work on improving eye-contact (at least) first. (The trick to doing this appropriately is written in this post: Attention Seeking is a Big Fat Lie. )
We know a lot more than our children, simply because we’ve been around longer. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to pass that information on, and know they can trust what we tell them and follow our advice? Even when they are teenagers.
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