Thursday, September 22, 2011

Do I Talk Too Much?

Do I talk too much?

Just askin' 

I've decided that I say too many words, because the words I say seem to have less and less value. It's not just that we have 3 young adult kids and they have less need of my words. It's more about the fact that I can say, "And remember to make your lunch for tomorrow," yet we can still wake to at least one less lunch than required by the growing bodies heading to school in the morning. 

I say, "Please take the trash out of the van or I won't be bringing after-school snacks." I investigate the three-day waft of something-not-quite-right-and-the-smelly-disk-isn't taking-care-of-it find a half-zipped plastic bag with a portion of an apple and a complete science experiment. If only I had thought to market it! I could have made our millions and retired to someplace Florida.

The reason we get lunches ready at night (and hopefully, into the frig.
 FYI--Meat sandwiches should not stay on the counter all night.)
 is to give me opportunity to keep 
the bliss as well as the bless 
in our mornings. Have I mentioned I'm not a morning person? 

I also ask the kids to get their uniforms ready in the evening. I find that it's much easier to wash and dry a pair of shorts or a jumper the night before, should that need arise. If my kid smells a little funky on a school day, he or she may be wearing an article of clothing that was sent through the dryer to "freshen it up" despite the ketchup stain on the right shoulder. It's also easier to have dad tie the real tie the night before. (Although one Thursday morning, Ben and I used a step-by-step you tube video to create a fabulous half-windsor knot in that snappy plaid tie of his.) 

Have you ever answered a kid's question, then had that child repeat his question within minutes...because he didn't listen for the answer? I've heard every variation of rationale for why he doesn't know what I said.
(Although, honestly, I'm not always certain I said my answer out loud...But, before I chew his or her head off, I think back and try to remember if my lips had moved and if sound had come out...)

Why do they ask a question if they aren't interested in getting the answer? And I am talking about the can-I-have-a-snack kind of questions, not the where-do-babies-come-from kind. I can guarantee you that they'll hear every inflection of your voice and every consonant you stumble over when those questions are asked.

There. That was my mini-rant.
but once again, it begs the question: Do I talk too much?

DO YOU SEE THIS?? voluntary, and unprovoked...

My newest tact is to (attempt to) decrease the number of words I choose to share with the kids. It doesn't mean we'll be in the Maxwell Smart's Cone of Silence (although I long to try it sometime.) It means I've seen a character-breech in several of the kids regarding their listening skills. 
Not just hearing, but l.i.s.t.e.n.i.n.g.

Since we are dealing with an issue that I personally feel needs to be addressed at a pretty young age (squish those words out for emphasis...a preeeeeetty young aaaaaaage) I guess I am going to take us all to revisit the training grounds. 
 Why do I believe it is part of their training to 
Listen to my Voice?
~the kind of listening that isn't just hearing me drone on about whatever~

When J and J were at a preeeeeetty young aaaaaaage, I expected them to listen and obey. But it wasn't until my friend Amy and I talked about it, that I realized I needed to be actively training them in that skill. I mean, there are whole courses at UF that help train a student to listen. 
Why wouldn't it take training to get the results I expected from my kids?
"Gummy teeth" called Zuby candy in the Czech Republic. 

I limited my directions to an age-appropirate number ("get in your jammies, brush your teeth and bring me a book") and had them repeat it back to me. Then, I actively waited while they accomplished their to-do list. I find that I still get totally off track if I try to tuck another activity into my down-time. I use the wait time to plan the next day, or to pray. If my body is busy with tasks, I soon wander off the training task.

So, my new/old tact is to decrease the number of words I use and be more careful in my directions, corrections, and responses. I expect them to look me in the eye when they speak to me (or anyone, especially an adult) but I don't always give them that same courtesy. I'm going to try to change that habit in myself. I am already back into the swing of checking up (accountability!) after I've made a request. The 5 kids at home full time right now need to know I will be checking with them in the near future, or things get left undone ("I was going to do it, just  after....") 
Thanks to Catie and Zhou Lei for the adorable outfit!

Of course, I'm going to tell you why I think it's more than just respect for me and my words that motivates me to put the extra work into this area of our character. I desperately want my kids to hear 
the Ultimate Authority 
in their lives and respond with obedience. In our house, we define obedience as doing the task
1. quickly
2. sweetly
3. completely

I want their hearts to respond to my voice (does "harken to my voice" sound familiar?) because obedience  is one of the gateways to our souls. God uses the "harken to my voice, and obey...with these consequences..." a lot in the First Testament of His Redemption (the Old Testament.) He also outlines the consequences of disobedience in great detail. Obedience HAS to START with hearing. True listening is the transmission of the word you hear into the word you process.

What we love, we follow.
Some of us follow sports stats (not in this house!)
Some follow Wall Street numbers.
Some of us follow Hollywood stars.
I want to follow Jesus.
I want my kids to want to follow Jesus.

So I will give the effort (and it is effort!) to train their hearts to listen to my voice. And pray that they learn to hear His voice, accept His Words, and obey, regardless of their personal preference or "rights."

 The current plan in our family still includes car snacks at the end of the day. I just can't take that away from the Golden Snack Queen. She rules the car for the first few minutes of each pick-up time, while she confers her choice morsels to the undeserving souls whom she encountered in car line. I, for one, hope we don't have to give that up for the cause...and I'm sure there are at least 5 others who would vote with me on this one.

Enjoying their 8:30 bedtime may be my one weakness.


  1. I have an 11 year old boy that I need to use less words with! I find myself constantly repeating requests or answers. Is it laziness on his part for choosing not to retain the words or is it laziness on my part for letting him continue in this terrible habit? Just where did his brain go? Oh yes, you have told me that it will return when he reaches the age of 13, but I crack before then. Thank you for the back to basics reminder!

  2. As we did the out-the-door babble and run this boring, I thought about the same thing. What really will happen if I don't say, Every one have their homework? your shoes? your lunch box?

    I am going to prayerfully consider making a list that they could access as they run out the door...and never remind them again (cold palms, and a quiver in my being...) Let the chips fall where they may. I think if we have routine spots for everything, then they should have everything available to succeed. I want to remember to give kudos where they are due.

    I said I was going to prayerfully consider it...I'll let you know if I'm "man enough" to jump off this particular bridge (there is some safety-net feeling of control when I am in charge of the list of things...I may need to give up that feeling in order to encourage them to create their good habits.)