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Communication With Discernment

March 02, 2023
By Leah Rabb

One of my favorite tips on parenting doesn’t actually come from a parenting book, but from the Corrie Ten Boom book, The Hiding Place. Corrie tells a story about a time as a young girl she asked her father a very serious question. The wise father decides that Corrie at her young age is not developmentally ready to hear the answer.

“He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case off the floor and set it on the floor.
Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?" he said. I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning. It's too heavy," I said.
“Yes," he said, "and it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It's the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger, you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.”

Communicating in a way that a child is not ready developmentally can produce frustration for both you and your child.  Within a family, you can have multiple developmental stages not only physically, but also emotionally and socially. The different stages can hinder how families successfully communicate. Knowing the “ages and stages” of development help in communicating within a family and can reduce frustration. An example would be giving a young child multiple step directions when the child truly can only do one thing at a time. Understanding motivation and ability within the developmental stages can also help. Some children follow directions better when they understand the “why” and others need to be told how to do things.  Stephen Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families found it helpful for families to discern whether something was age appropriate by asking the following three questions:

Should the child do it? (a value question)
Can the child do it ? ( a competency question)
Does the child want to do it? ( a motivation question)

Training in communication takes time and sometimes lots of patience! Children seek to be understood even when they have limited language skills. Knowing your child and listening to your child will improve their ability to listen and talk with you. Communication takes practice while the child grows.Stephen Covey suggests the traits of good family communication is to “seek first to understand” and then “seek to be understood”. Knowing how to communicate and when to communicate items with our children releases our children from carrying a burden they are not quite ready to bear.

Covey, S. R. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families. Franklin Covey, 1997

Leah Rabb
Elementary Education Principal
Logos Preparatory Academy