About a month ago I wrote about teaching your children to have a voice. As I have progressed in this series I have intentionally waited to follow up with ‘allowing’ your children to have a voice, because I wanted to build a well-rounded platform. We have discussed several topics and character qualities such as: Shaping Your Child’s Personality, R.E.S.P.E.C.T., and Monkey See Monkey Do. I would almost suggest making reading those previous articles a prerequisite to reading this. It is imperative that we teach our children to have a voice, and it is just as – if not more – vital to build the character to responsibly handle that voice.
Allowing your children to have a voice is a powerful multi-dynamic practice encompassing interpersonal communication, personal convictions, values, reasoning, confidence, personality, etc. So, basically, it’s the practical side of teaching your children to have a voice… And, my friends, it takes time and patience— but is WELL worth the investment!!!
Do you remember when you were in school and the teacher would assign the infamous ‘persuasive essay’ where you had to pretend to write to someone, explain your stance, and convince them to do as you requested? (I remember those… I hated those… I hated English… now, I have a degree in Literature – go figure!) As a youngster I never could see the point of trying to convince a pretend *someone* of *something* and I had concluded it was to develop my writing skills. As an adult I see that the writing was secondary, and the exercise was to combine my reasoning with my ability to articulate. This is precisely what we are discussing today!
When you engage your child and are trying to mature their ‘voice’ recall those pesky essays. As a parent you should be trying to develop their reasoning, oratory skills, and –most important—their attitude… sounds easy, right!? Well, hate to brake it to you, but if you aren’t ‘on top if it’ and paying attention to how your child is using their voice, then you are training them to use their voice completely unbridled… Remember, we are always training our children. If they are unruly then it is because we are training them to be unruly; if they are bridled, it is because we have trained them to be…
Now, there are obviously age appropriate boundaries you give your child as they learn to express themselves, and there is grace when they cross the line. The grace is given because they usually don’t know any better and they are just learning, but the grace must be combined with instruction. In our house we NEVER permit whining, especially when complaining – no matter what age. But, we permit complaining (within reason, of course!) because we all need a chance to vent. In the midst of our children complaining we always couple it with reasoning… parental guided reasoning… where we ask how they came to the conclusions they came to, and if the consequences are worth the complaint/ tattle tale. Now, mind you our oldest is only 6 years old, and we are still strengthening her reasoning and instilling our values. When she is 12 years old, if she complains about the same things then we need to revaluate our approach and see where she needs trained better.
How do you decide these age appropriate boundaries? Well, that is really more subjective to the maturity level of your child. If your child is 14 and you are just now starting to engage (good for you, by the way, better late than never!), then you have to intentionally invest more communication and explanation per correction, but your child is also old enough to reason and understand. If your child is 1 year old then there will obviously be little explanation, but follow through carries much more weight.
Remember, no one knows your child better than you… And YOU are the instruction manual you wish you child came with.
You need to give your child grace and encouragement to use their voice. A common phrase around our house is ‘you need to use your words’… When there is crying and fussing we always expect our children to calm themselves long enough to answer if they are hurt, and explain what the problem is.
Our job as parents is to ‘work ourselves out of a job’ – meaning we should instill the ability to self-govern into our children. The only way they will learn to self govern their voice, is when we as parents allow them to have a voice…
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