I have always been fascinated by language and how just a few letters, rearranged, can dramatically change the meaning of a word…how just a few words, rearranged, can dramatically change the meaning of a sentence…how just a few sentences, rearranged, can dramatically change the meaning of a paragraph…how just a few paragraphs… You get the idea. Think of the changes to the letters “couragement” when you append “en” to the beginning rather than “dis.” A few small letters, yet a massive impact in meaning…
What We Do, Not Say
As parents, the subtle signals we send our children can be just as simple and dramatic as the difference a few letters can make. When our kids come to us with a question or problem we choose, consciously or unconsciously, how to respond. We may barely give it thought before our words leave our mouths…we may be wholly unaware of the cues our body language is sending, and even our kids may not be fully aware of how deeply they are actually influenced by the same. Yet, the impact of our words and actions on our kids is huge and lasting.
Don’t Dis Me, Dad!
We may not realize it, but sometimes it is easier to add the “dis” than the “en” to the “couragement” we offer. We subtly add the “dis” by multitasking instead of giving our kids our full attention. I am often guilty of this offense, unconsciously signaling to my kids that they are not as important as my phone, or my computer or whatever else it is that has some or all of my attention while I half-heartedly answer them. It would be so easy to add the “en” and encourage them by putting down the phone, or iPad, or laptop, or book, or newspaper, or remote, and turn to look them in the eye, to stop and listen, really listen, and to offer words of true encouragement, guidance and our own unique wisdom. But too often we (I) don’t.
Encouragement Takes Courage
It is apparent that being a parent is hard, and challenging, but also perhaps the most rewarding of life’s gifts. There is some truth to the old adage that you get back what you put in. The joy you see on a child’s face when they know they have your undivided attention is real. So is the pride you feel when you see how your child grows and succeeds from the encouragement you have shared. As modern parents we live complicated, busy and stressful lives, which makes it easy at times to default to the “dis.” I am going to encourage myself to try harder to discard the “dis” and embrace the “en” when it comes to offering “couragement” to my kids.
How about you?
Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 22, Ethan, 20 and Olivia, 19). Â He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast. Â You can see more of Jeffâ€™s writing atÂ Sassholes! andÂ Social Networking Rehab and you can listen to Jeff on theÂ Cast of Dads podcast.?
Photo Credit: Â© Kabby – Fotolia.com