Mike and I were talking today, and had a great conversation while we were looking back and reflecting from our own experiences.
I emphasize communication a lot, and sometimes do not talk enough about NON VERBAL communication.
Mike's observation about our girls, was SPOT ON, and I wanted to share it with you. I wrote about modeling behaviors back in 2009. HERE is that post.<--- link
When Sarah came home to us, she had been in Texas for 10 months. She was originally from Ukraine. She came with a fantastic Texas Accent and even said things like, "Mama, I'm fixin' to go outside!"
I was REALLY surprised that she SEEMED to be speaking 'perfect" English. Or perfect TEXAN anyway. :) We quickly realized that she did NOT understand much of what she was saying, but was mimicking others! So, when she left the house to go outside to play, she knew to say, "I'm fixin' to go outside." She didn't necessarily know what each of these words, separated apart meant!
We found that many times when we talked to her she would look at us, cute as a bug, smile and say YES! But she didn't understand. She was VERY misunderstood in her previous family. They thought she was terribly rebellious and defiant.
I have shared this before, but for my newer readers I will write it again. One day she was jumping off the coffee table. I said, "Sarah, we don't jump off of the coffee table."
Her reply was "Ok!"
And then she did it again.
So again, I more clearly said, "Sarah, please do not jump off of the coffee table!"
Again she said, "OK!"
And again she jumped off of the coffee table.
After the 3rd time, I said,
"Sarah, what does Jump mean?"
She looked puzzled. I don't know.
What is a coffee table?
I don't know.
So I JUMPED up and down. "This is JUMP!
I showed her the coffee table...."This is a coffee table!"
Nyet, no jumping from the coffee table!
And a light went on. OH! And she didn't do it again.
There were many things like that with the girls.
They misunderstand EASILY because language had not been GRASPED fully.
This went on for YEARS!
I realized she was also learning her language in phrases instead of individual words.
So she asked "What's justaminute mean?"
I took the sounds apart and said, just, one, minute. "OHHHH!"
And a few minutes later I said, "Sarah, can you come here?"
One time in the grocery store she had a big smile and said, "MOMMY! YOU MAKE ME SICK!"
I must have had a shocked look because he countenance fell and she said, "Oh, I don't think I should say that again!" LOL
I don't know where she heard it, but she picked it up! :)
When Alli came home almost 2 years ago, she had only been in North Carolina for FOUR or FIVE MONTHS! She had the thickest North Carolina Accent! In fact, I have a video of us and you can hear it very well. ( I'll share that at the end of this post.)
She now has a Texas Accent.
When you take a child who has had NOTHING, and bring them home, they are like sponges, soaking everything in. They want to be LIKE US..... They WANT to be in a family even though they really do not know what one is. They want a mama and a daddy... and they CRAVE our acceptance and love.
THEY MIMIC US in EVERY WAY!
INCLUDING OUR OWN BEHAVIORS!
The NON verbal part of a child coming home, is HUGE... Think of a baby. They study our faces and our mouths as we talk starting very early. Then, at about 5 months old they start to mimic our sounds, and soon little words of ma ma, da da, ba ba, follow.
But there is MUCH communication going on before that.
We communicate with our tone of voice! We communicate with our body language. We communicate with our ACTIONS!
Now, take a child that is new into our home..... They do NOT know how to behave in a family setting.
Just like that baby who studies our faces, so are our children; so what IF, when they don't do something we like , we were to YELL at them!
We have just communicated to them how we speak when we disapprove!
Then, we do something THEY don't like and BAM! They yell at us.
And then, we RAISE our voices in Protest! "YOU ARE BEING DISRESPECTFUL!"
Are you seeing the picture I am trying to paint?
WE have taught them to be disrespectful, by treating them with disrespect. As parents, we can be confused, "How in the world would somebody not get that they can't talk to us like this?"
Scripture says in Luke chapter 6 verses 41-42
"Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye but do not notice the LOG that is in your OWN eye? How can you say to your brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye, when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye and THEN you will see CLEARLY to take the speck from your brother's eye."
Re read it with your child in mind.
Notice, it does NOT say, that you shouldn't remove the speck. What it DOES say is that you need to deal with your OWN STUFF so that you can see CLEARLY to take the speck from your brother's eye.
I believe this is true for parents. If we have problems with controlling our own tempers, or with being easily exasperated, or if we have problems with impatience, you better believe our children who WANT to be like us, are going to mimic us.
So, you want your children to behave differently? MODEL the very behavior you want them have.
And no, it is NEVER TO LATE to start over!
If you find yourself at the dead end of punishment based parenting, where you can't ground any more, can't take anything else away lest your child be standing there in their undercarrots.(Anna's word for underwear)....or if it is a never ending cycle of taking things away, child is sweet to get things back only to have them taken away again and the cycle becomes more and more serious where there is resentment and anger, arguing, fighting and escalating violence ......
PLEASE STOP! It doesn't have to be that way!Go back to square one! Take a LONG HARD LOOK at where you are and REPENT. Seriously REPENT! Ask the Lord to help you. And then BE the MODEL for your children.
THE UNSPOKEN word of our body language is STRONG in the lives of our children. Do we have welcoming hands? <---link Do we have kindness written on our face? Do we stomp off, slam doors, drive out of the drive way with a squeal, or walk away in frustration? Do we do this with our spouse?
Do we do this when we are frustrated with life situations?
If we do, it shouldn't be such a surprise that they MIMIC not only our words, but our actions!
If our children have come from trauma backgrounds where this is how they were treated, it can be VERY FRIGHTENING for them to wind up in a situation and not be able to clearly see a difference. If you are trying to turn things around, but struggling, you are not alone. I STRONGLY URGE you to try the "Mom Dad and Me" book method. I wrote about it here.<---link) and I updated it here<-- link.
This form of communication can be VERY helpful because it gives your child time to express themselves, and an avenue for you to speak kind words to them. If they can read and write even a little bit, they WORK WELL!
You would be surprised how your children can open up with just a few kind words like, "I think you are a really cool kid!"
All children want to feel that they have been heard or understood. These give excellent opportunities for our children to be heard and it takes the negative escalation out of it.
Always include kind words when you are responding in writing to something your child has written.
Be HUMAN with them. Don't worry that you are sharing a flaw... "I'm sorry I got so angry last night." I was not a good example, please forgive me. What I really wanted to share with you was...." because I love you! You are my Son! I'm proud of you!
BY MODELING an apology, it will teach your child to be open and HUMAN too! Pretty soon, they will be writing something similar.
"I'm sorry mom that I was mad." "I really do love you!"
"I'll try not to slam my door!"
To sum things up..... MODELING is PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL and VERBAL....
EVERY AREA of our lives our children are watching and soaking in what we teach them.
We can teach them the way of LOVE........................... or not.