There was a heretofore unmentioned little sidebar project I was working on for the last few days. Hopefully, in the next month or so I’ll be able fill you in on what that sidebar item was. Anyway, in the course of working on that I got to thinking about the human need for expression. In some ways this relates back to my post on freedom of speech. To an extent it is in the sense that they are both aspects of the same thing.
In some posts prior to that Andrea and I address some difficult subjects. They were difficult in the sense that, in a number of ways for subjects such as those, there simply are no words which will articulate how you feel. Second to that is the challenge of being articulate with a subject which weighs so heavily with you. In some ways it would be easy for me to get off into that subject again, but I want to focus primarily on the positive side of expression and how I’ve observed it playing out in children. And how I’ve transformed that learning through reflecting on things I’ve observed throughout my life and things I’ve found through examining my own behaviour. I included this paragraph in the post because the whole subject of that form of parenting was the one which had me thinking about expression and children.
We are often complimented on how articulate Emma is. Few use the word articulate, but when it comes down to it that quality is what they are refering to. Many adults we encounter are astounded by her. The reason she is so articulate is amazingly simple: practice. She has had years of experience of talking and listening where the ‘big people’ around her took her seriously and conversed with her. I (on the cell phone) had the following conversation with her:
me: Hi sweetheart.
What are you doing?
me: I’m driving.
Em: Are you making your way home?
I know from reading some of your blogs that it’s not a great exception by any stretch. The thing is that it doesn’t read like it was said by a 5 year old. What it illustrates is something I’ve seen in many children: the desire to speak like an adult. The larger question is what is behind that desire or what drives that desire?
Over the years, I have had an interest in understanding what it was that made me tick. There were things, (ok, there are still a few things) that were seemingly insignificant that pushed my buttons. There were other things that I was (am?) somewhat compulsive about. For my own sanity and well-being, it was necessary that I fathom some of those things out. One of the ways I worked toward that was by observing my kids.
What I believe is the answer to the above question is the need (or want) to express oneself and to have that expression understood. In a child, that means that framing what they have on their mind in the language of an adult is the best avenue to having an adult understand it. When I am in front of the computer writing a post, most of the thinking that goes into a post is not about what I want to say but in how to say what is on my mind in a way that it is unlikely to be mistaken for something different. The sort of person who I’ve found to be the poorest communicator is one who promptly blames the person on the other end of the conversation for any misunderstanding. That’s because they don’t give a thought to what they might be doing that is causing it and therefore don’t get any better at it.
From birth, most children express themselves. When they are newborns, they only have one means of communication and that is to cry. Later they learn to coo, make noises and smile. But the drive to be understood is clearly evident. Every year the number of blogs on the internet doubles. I don’t believe that the need to express oneself dimishes with maturity. I do believe that a person will not feel fulfilled (or happy) unless they have avenues of expression. Even though our society makes great talk of freedom of speech, it provides few opportunities or avenues for expression. And that is what I believe fuels the blog explosion because an avenue of expression is what blogs have created.
For all of the talking that I’ve done, what I’m really trying to encourage you to do is to provide your children with avenues of expression. Talk to them as though they were another person. Debate and discuss issues with them. Allow them to disagree with you on those issues. Assume that they things they say to you are serious and legitimate and important from their perspective. Your children will benefit from this far more than any instruction/training you will provide them with.