Subliminal Messages: What we really are telling kids.

Jenn & John 108

Why do we adults avoid telling kids the truth?

I’m not talking about the “birds and the bees” at an inappropriate age. I’m thinking more about just telling them why things, that they don’t like, are good for them. I do it too. The little song and dance for vegetables. The demand that homework be done first, before play….”because I said so.”

Well, I have started telling the kids the “whys” and “why nots” more often. If they don’t, at first, understand my reasons…I’m going to keep at it until they do. Like eating vegetables, the plain truth can taste bad but we keep offering the vegetables, why not keep explaining?

My daughter, Ellen, surprised and pleased me yesterday. (BTW-She does it often.) Her daughter, Katherine, came home, from her first grade class, with valentines. One large red heart from the teacher was a “get-out-of 1 homework assignment” coupon.

Ellen grimaced. “I don’t like this.”

She was, in my opinion, exactly correct. What that coupon did was counteract the message that we’d worked to convey to Katherine. Homework is necessary. It helps you practice and remember your lessons and is the perfect gauge that measures if you really understood what is going on.

Instead, the message of homework as an optional drudgery, rang “clear as a bell”.

Ellen’s, advice to her daughter, was,”Let’s save this. You may be sick one day but I think, not using it , will bring you a reward. We’ll talk about the reward.”

We adults convey subliminal messages to kids with our reactions. I catch myself frequently and attempt not to do this.

I had remembered advice given by a dentist, who’d seen very many frightened kids coming for their first visits. He advised parents to never treat the dentist visit as “evil” with phrases like, “Sorry, but you have to go.” or “If you are very brave, we’ll get a treat after.” That stuck with me and I use that advice when I talk to kids about any subject. I listen to myself from the viewpoint of a child. Takes practice, and isn’t fool-proof, but advice worthy of sharing with all of you.

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