Unspoken Communication, The Silent Definer
Most of the time when we think about communication with our kids/teens, it’s in the words that we’re using or the body language that we’re presenting. I’d like to talk about the other ways that we’re communicating. One in particular… as it has been at the top of all the headline news recently.
When we pay for our children to pass tests, or purposefully break the law with them to get them into college, we are communicating loud and clear the unspoken message that says, “You are not capable, I don’t believe in you, you can’t do this on your own power, I have to protect you from the world so you don’t get hurt, you have to be as good as me or better, you have to represent the family in a certain light, etc.”
Unfortunately, parents don’t understand how debilitating this is to a child, or they would never go to the crazy extents to generate great things happening, or overly protect them from life. I would say that 100% of the people that I’ve worked with in rehab or my private practice had a message from a parent/caregiver that in some way conveyed that impression of their identity.
Some of the clients who have had the most challenges are the ones who feel entitled. They have never had to clean their room, there were maids for that. They never had to work for a living, money was given without earning. They were bailed out of bad situations with no consequence. Many learned that they use their family status to promote their self-interest rather than their own personal value. For most they never had to go through the hard moments of life that help us define and own our strength.
To be clear, children aren’t born dysfunctional, this “messaging or programing” goes back to the period of 0 to 8 years in a child’s life. At that stage they are taking on their identity, what they believe about themselves and how they are to act in the world. On a quick side note, just to make this a little easier to deal with, I’ll say that we all took on the programs of our minds. So, don’t blame your parents too much, they took on the thinking and beliefs from their parents, your grandparents, who learned from their parents and so on further down the genealogical line.
There was an incident that happened when my first daughter was growing up that really shows what I mean by unspoken communication in action. We had a playdate with a mother and her son. He was about 5 years old at the time, and quite a wonderful kid. We were getting ready to leave, and she got down on the floor and put on his shoes for him. I was a bit surprised, and I asked her why she did it. She said that it just takes too long. We weren’t in a hurry, and I could see a look of embarrassment on his face as he looked at my daughter when she said it. Seemed like quite the jab to his self-confidence. Life is about learning the little things and moving forward one achievement at a time, if a child is able to dress themselves, let them. You’re the parent, budget into your time for those precious moments for them to learn and feel proud of their accomplishments. Be patient, they will get quicker as they gain confidence.
The same thing goes for homework. The teachers know when the parent has done the assignment or project. When you take it over because of your ideas on how it should look, you are telling them that they’re not good enough, clever enough… capable. I really had to learn this one myself, my daughters can attest to the amount of perfectionism I’ve had to let go of!
Another example is when they are teens and going to take the driver’s test. If they are able to drive a car, they are quite capable to set it all up. They can call the DMV, set up driving appointments and testing time. If they want it bad enough, they will get it done, and be proud of themselves in the process.
Basically, if you know that they can accomplish the task, have them do it.
They can build confidence and skills by being a part of the family community and doing chores. When this is carried out, they learn the ability of how to take care of their own home when they become an adult. In the process you can teach them to meditate while doing the unconscious act of cleaning, folding clothes, etc. Or, you can make it a fun time, put the music up loud and dance in the process. Get creative. Believe it or not, this can be a great time for family bonding.
To put it all in a nutshell, I always go back to my idea that if we were all talked to and taught like we were the Dalai Lama then the world would be a much different place. At a very young age he became, “The Chosen One”. They let him know that he is special and gifted. They treated him with kindness and showed him a path of enlightenment as his life’s practice. He was encouraged with love. Then, he became the man that could be an amazing compassionate and conscious leader who shares such a valuable message of love.
“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” ~Dalai Lama
“When we meet real tragedy in life, we can react in two ways - either by losing hope and falling into self-destructive habits, or by using the challenge to find our inner strength. Thanks to the teachings of Buddha, I have been able to take this second way.” ~Dalai Lama
“I find hope in the darkest of days and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe.” ~Dalai Lama
In in closing, communicate with intention.
Remember that your every action is communication to your kids.
Trust in their ability to own their intelligence, power and confidence.
Teach them the life skills that they will need to maintain their own life when they leave the safety of your nest.
Remember, they are in the back seat and watching more of what you do than what you say. Keep adjusting your behavior to be the example you would have liked to have learned from.
Treat them as you would have wanted to be treated, and if you’re not sure, treat them like they were the chosen one and love them silly.
If you’ve had a moment of communicating badly, have compassion for yourself and the ones involved, learn from it and move on. We’re all just doing the best we can in any given moment. Let go and be the better version of you and set the example for them to follow.
Audrey Newmont, Hypnotherapist, Spiritual Practitioner and Author
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