How to Quickly Test Your Communication Skills

Even before our children can utter their first “mama,” we’re communicating with them on a daily basis. What I’m learning though, after 6+ years of being a parent, is that often what I say and what gets heard are two totally different things.

I say, Hurry up, we’re running late for church…my kids hear, Let’s see who can take the longest to put on their shoes.

I say, It’s time to take a nap…to my kids that translates to, Time to play in our rooms.

I say, Eat all your dinner…my kids hear, Time for let’s make a deal. Can I eat 1 carrot or 2 carrots?

If you’re like me and have ever struggled with getting your point across with your kids, here’s how to quickly test your communication skills:

Gather the family together and hand everyone a blank sheet of paper.

Give them two rules: One, they cannot ask any questions. Two, they should not look at what anyone else is doing.

Next, without showing them what to do, instruct them to fold their pieces of paper in half and then tear off the top corner. (Again, no questions and no showing them what to do.)

Once they’re done, have them fold their pieces of paper in half and then tear off the top corner two or three more times, depending on the size of the paper.

After the third round of folding and tearing, ask everyone to unfold their paper and hold them up.

What you all will most likely see is that everyone’s paper looks different. Why? Because everyone hears and receives what’s communicated to them differently.

I was at my son’s school’s PTA program when a presenter asked us go through this very exercise. While the instructions seemed so simple, it was amazing how differently all the papers being held up across the room looked. It was funny to think that we’d all heard the same instructions, and yet we all took them in many different ways.

It was a fantastic reminder that while we think we may be speaking clearly to our kids, it’s not a guarantee they’re hearing what we’re trying to say. So before we lose it, we might take a moment to ask ourselves:

  • Have I been as specific as I can be?
  • Have I provided examples or models of what I’m asking or telling my kids to do?
  • Have I allowed room for questions–either for the kids to ask me questions or for me to ask questions of the kids to make sure they understand what I’ve said?

Becoming an inTENtional Mama

Mamas out there – I get it. Mamas with infants up at night, mysteriously crying, in need of constant snuggles – you there with the tired eyes, you are seen. Mamas with toddlers climbing and jumping, “helping” as they undo what you’ve done, defying you and adoring you – you there with the headache and need for a break, you are amazing. Mamas with kiddos running free, full of energy, bursting at the seams with ideas and enthusiasm – and you, trying to keep it all running smoothly, you are precious. Mamas with young ones who rise early and teens who keep you up with heart-to-hearts in the wee hours, as you struggle to function on four hours of sleep, meeting needs of the mouth and needs of the heart – you, you are doing a holy work.

I Heart Mommy

Photo source Dane via Flickr

To you mamas who set out with high ideals of speaking truth and identity into your little ones, of striving to infuse responsibility and strength, longing to teach by example to your brood who God is and how unconditional is His love – to you who feel bogged down by the day-to-day demands that sap your energy and vitality, this is for you.

There is more. Not more “to do” or more “to achieve.” There is more freedom, there is more hope, there is more God-filling to be had.

We have a God who is greatly intentional with us. And we long to live our own lives with such God-directed intentionality. But the tyrannical urgent comes in and puts a wedge between our passions and our present.

Remember, the first thing God ordained as holy was a period of time – the Sabbath day. He gave us time – not a place, not a practice, not a process – but time to remember Him and what He’s given us.

And, in the midst of our everyday chaos, where beauty and mess intermingle with predictable regularity, we can take time, little bursts of time, to refocus, to meet our kids where the are.

In my newly released book, The inTENtional Mama, we’ll dive into ten ways to use 10 minutes with your kids in order to strengthen the bonds you have and keep your mama-sanity at the same time. You will encounter practical suggestions to make ten minutes count. Ten minutes can make a huge difference in a relationship if they are used intentionally.

God has incredible plans for you and your children. You are part of their plans just as they are part of yours. It’s a mysterious and exquisite weaving, this relationship of mama and child.

So, for all you mamas with kids at home, in the middle of the hustle and bustle, you can make an investment on purpose in your children. You can do it without burning yourself out, without spending every waking moment focusing on “doing more.” You can reap beautiful relationships and sow a little each day into these priceless lives with ten intentional minutes at a time. You do not have to be perfect. (I’m certainly not!) You already care, you’re already meeting so many needs. I want to encourage you as you read, that you are already amazing, just as you are right now.

The inTENtional Mama is now available through Google Play, iBooks, and Kindle. For all you mamas out there who long to live with greater inTENtionality, check it out and be blessed!

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