February 24, 2020

Dear Campus School Families,

My mother liked sharing a story about how she taught my brother to safely cross a street. She reminded him to always look up and down the street before he crossed, but one day she looked out the window and saw my brother literally looking up and down – and not side to side - as he crossed. In retrospect my mother thought this was very funny; in the moment I’m sure she was horrified and quickly told my brother that “looking up and down” was a figure of speech and not a literal instruction.

These misfires of language are something that every parent has to deal with and manage. What can seem clear to an adult can be woefully muddy for a child. Sometimes our language is too abstract. Sometimes we use phrases or sayings that are unfamiliar to a child. Sometimes we talk too much or say too little. Every once in a while we expect a child to read our mind.

Learning how to communicate is one of the significant challenges and opportunities of childhood. Adults need to always remember to meet children where they are while not talking down to them. (Fred Rogers was very good at this.) It simply takes extra effort and sensitivity to communicate effectively with a child – especially when we ourselves are feeling frustrated, distracted, or stressed. And it is always a good practice to double check for understanding.

When we do take the time needed to really hear what a child is saying and carefully communicate what it is we are trying to convey the rewards are plentiful. (And it might just prevent a child from walking into a street while looking in all the wrong places.)