Today I'd like to bring up the importance of communication between a parent and child. Communication has everything to do with disciplining a child. It has everything to do with discipleship and relationship.
Communication is one of the most basic tools we have in order to relate to another person.
When a child cannot communicate, the result can be very much like that of an infant before they can speak or sign.
We need to REMEMBER that our children who come to us through TRAUMA and many times from foreign countries where they spoke another language or not at all, will be infantile in many of their behaviors at first, because they CANNOT communicate!
I read an article a LONG time ago by Dr.Boris Gindis that stated for a child to MASTER his new language, just double the age at which he or she arrived in this country. I would say that is pretty true!
Sarah arrived in the United States at 5 years old, and while she was speaking English well after 1 year, she was not comprehending most of what was said to her. She'd just smile alot and guess.
I felt she achieved MASTERY at around 10. And since has gained much more in her vocabulary and language skills.
Erika came at nearly 8. She will most likely not reach mastery until 16. She is 14. She still will struggle with trying to explain something in detailed terms.
Alli, didn't come to America until 3 years ago, and had a very difficult start. She didn't REALLY start to learn, because of all the past trauma until around 18 months ago. Even if she came at 9, she won't have mastery until 18. I feel it might be even later than that.
This is NOT limited to international children by any means. It is also for children who are speech delayed due to neglect or abuse. Anna was woefully behind verbally when she came home at 5. It didn't take her as long to catch up, because English was her native language, but it still took considerable time.
ALL of that background was to say that Communication is so very important and it is extremely important that we don't ASSUME that our children understand us.
As parents we need to teach our children to communicate in their new language with great patience.
"Sweety, use your words.. tell mama what is wrong." Many times these children will act out because they are so frustrated not having the words to say what is going on in their heart. Carefully offering ideas and words and explaining the meaning can really help solve a problem and diffuse behaviors that are really unwanted by them and you!
It is also important to remember that children who have had much trauma in their background have a VERY difficult time distinguishing "tone of voice". They many times do not understand that they have sounded snotty, and they may think you have raised your voice at them when in fact you haven't.
They have a hard time understanding the difference between a firm yet gracious voice, vs. somebody yelling at them.
Sometimes when the situation fits, I may say to them, "You may NOT!" That means, stop what you are doing. It could be somebody acting out or raising a voice.
The other day, I was speaking, IMO very softly and tenderly, but because somebody named Miss Alli was on the receiving end of my correction, she felt that I was "yelling" at her.
I asked her, "Was mama yelling? Or did you just not like what I had to say?"
She really had to smile at that one. Because when she thought about it..... it was the latter.
In communicating with a child that is woefully behind in communication skills, we really need to be patient and gracious with our children and take GREAT efforts to help them understand what we are trying to convey. Here is where the art of discipline comes in. We need to discipline ourselves to be patient and very, very careful to make sure we are understood. We ALSO need to be painstakingly patient in helping our children FIND THEIR VOICE, so THEY can be understood too.
I have been really surprised sometimes to find out that one of our children wasn't really upset in a disobedient way, she was upset at not being ABLE to express herself how she needed to. The words were just not there and she was frustrated.
I can compare it to a person who was fully functional and then suddenly due to a terrible accident, lost the movement in their body. They can not longer run and jump or do simple things for themselves. Transitioning can be VERY trying .
This is the very situation that presents itself, right before many people decide to disrupt!
Right about the 1-2 year stage, the child is speaking English quite well and it is ASSUMED they understand everything perfectly. They don't.
Communication through words, facial expression, touch, tone, and body language can go a LONG ways in helping our children feel loved, nurtured, and accepted.
Working hard to teach THEM the very same things can go a LONG way, and in a mutual effort of meeting each other somewhere in the middle, we can achieve a satisfactory relationship while we discipline ourselves to continue to learn the LOVE language needed to establish relationship.
I have found in talking to Miss Alli if I use a soothing, reassuring voice to patiently wait for her to express herself, it puts her at ease and the words start to flow. :)
I make sure to tell her that I am not mad at her or that I know she is having a hard time telling me what is in her mind.... This has Helped her greatly!
Sometimes the words are there, but if she feels stressed she can't remember them; at least not on the spot.
It really is up to us, as parents, to set an example in communication; being very careful with our words, tone and expression, in order to convey the right message. It is up to us to teach these skills to our children also, so that they can get to a place of peaceful safety and rest.
Communication is an art form under the umbrella of Discipline.
“I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God- it changes me.”
― C. S. Lewis
― C. S. Lewis
I believe in the sun even when it's not shining. I believe in love even when I don't feel it. And I believe in God even when He is silent. (quote found on the wall of a concentration camp)