By Hettie Brittz. Adapted from Growing Kids with Character 2.0. Copyrighted.
(N.B. – In the USA lollipop trees are known as boxwood trees)
Lollipop trees are the children we need to talk to as though our words were stones and these precious kids were made of glass. It can be exhausting, BUT when we care enough to adapt to their preferred communication style, these sometimes timid little ones bloom into productive and emotionally intelligent delights.
If we really want our lollipops to understand what we say, we will do them and ourselves a favour to follow these guidelines:
- A lollipop listens to the way we speak (emotions), and not only to what we say. We should, therefore, communicate very calmly and in a friendly way. They can “catch on” to our negativity very quickly if we talk in a whiny tone, and then we can expect a nasty reaction.
- Lollipops sometimes have trouble listening and want as many written instructions as possible. Make sketches of rules and put them up somewhere. It will be more effective than walking around reminding your toddler all day long. A constant nagging exhausts them.
- Talk calmly and don’t rush them too much. Lollipops want to do everything well and need time to accomplish this.
- Lollipops want to feel appreciated and be certain you understand that your expectations will be hard work and trouble. Therefore, say please, and thank you.
- Lollipops need to understand everything in detail, so repeat everything you said patiently when necessary.
- Convey that you understand the emotion that your lollipop is experiencing by saying: “I realize that this instruction (or punishment or request or word) makes you feel ___________.”
- Beware of saying things that could convey disregard for your lollipop’s intense emotions and experiences. Forbidden words include: “Get a grip. Stop crying. Get over it. How long are you going to keep on sulking? What is so bad about that? Tomorrow is another day. Don’t worry; other people are worse off than you. Be grateful – it could have been much worse. I know of someone who …”
- Remember that lollipops only hear the negative. Therefore, never follow up a compliment with criticism. When we tell lollipops, “The room looks nice, but next time you should remember to close the closet door,” they only hear, “Your closet door should have been closed.” When we say, “These are good marks, but it seems to me that you did better last term,” they will only hear, “You did better in the past.” Give the compliment and resist the temptation to add even a touch of criticism. If you need to deal with criticism, do it later in a sensitive way.
- Lollipops are quick to take things personally and are therefore very sensitive to accusations. Be sure of your facts and talk privately when you think they are guilty. When they are reprimanded in public, they get very defensive and they will probably lie to protect their self-image.
- If lollipops do something wrong that we didn’t expect of them, we shouldn’t overreact. Rather ask explorative questions. My lollipop was never one to break or damage things, but when she was four she cut up the vertical blinds – all into different lengths! I was furious. Later, it turned out that she thought it would look more artistic if every panel had a different length. Why did I just assume she was naughty? If I had stayed calm and asked her why she had cut them, I would have realized immediately that it was a big mistake made in childlike innocence. She thought she was busy with interior decoration! Now that she is older, I see signs of this artistic, creative tendency every day.
- Lollipops often get uncharacteristically aggressive when they are criticized and can react with razor-like sharpness to hurt you, too. Don’t take it personally nor react to it. Talk about it later and teach your lollipop not to react that way. They are usually remorseful within a few minutes after their counter-attack!
- We can’t take back nasty words once we have said them because lollipops remember everything! When we have lashed out, attacked their character, or been unreasonable, we have to go back and apologize. Even shouting at them is too much for their delicate composition. They experience this type of aggression as intensely as they would physical violence.
- Don’t talk a lot when lollipops are emotional – they will get even angrier! Allow them time and space, and talk later.
- Lollipops are very sensitive to the silent treatment because they fill the gaps themselves. They imagine the worst, put words in your (closed) mouth, and usually imagine your anger or unhappiness as far worse than it really is. At least try to say, “I will tell you how I feel later, just give me time.” This will help them wait for the truth and not have their imaginations run wild. It is also a way of postponing their reactions until they are less emotional.
- Be calm
- Be specific
- Be matter-of-fact
- Be available to help
- Be appreciative of their attempts
How can we listen to our lollipops better?
- Remember that an emotional avalanche of words is part of the lollipop’s style – if the story seems confusing, listen to the heart.
- Lollipops see all details as equally important. Therefore, be patient while they go down many detours to get to their destination.
- Ask them to summarise everything they have said when you don’t follow but don’t switch off – it hurts them immensely.
- Lollipops can immediately sense when you are critical or skeptical about what they are saying, and then they become guarded. It will prevent them from opening their hearts to you in the future. Be careful not to raise your eyebrows, frown, sigh or give other negative non-verbal feedback while they are talking. Give them a chance to talk and respond with caution.
- Understand that it is not mistrust towards you when lollipops have so many detailed questions. They merely have an intense need to know and understand everything.
- Lollipops like to complain and usually have a completely separate whiny voice for such occasions. You should never respond to that voice or else it will become permanent. Say very calmly, “I want to listen, but you will have to use your friendly voice.”
- Look out for the lollipops’ secret weapon – they use emotional complaining and unreasonable accusations to manipulate parents. When you hear this, point it out and make sure that it doesn’t become a pattern with your lollipop.
Let’s get practical
Identify the eight statements or questions that would hurt a lollipop’s feelings. Replace each of these with a statement or question that would convey empathy and understanding. There are some possible answers and alternative reactions provided at the end of this exercise.
- It seems you are deeply disappointed.
- Forget about it.
- Why are you crying again?
- What made you so sad?
- You can stop crying now. It’s over.
- I see you are shocked and upset.
- Go and sit somewhere quiet until you feel better.
- Don’t feel so sorry for yourself.
- You are not the only one who was hurt.
- You have a very gentle spirit. That is precious.
- I don’t know what to do when you cry like that.
- You can come and sit with me any time, even if you are too sad to talk.
- Laugh and the world laugh with you, cry and you cry alone.
- Surely it can’t be that bad!
- Have you ever noticed that rude people upset you?
- Even if you are sad about it for a while longer, I know it is not something that will upset you for life.
- I have noticed that you cry often. I want to understand why so that I can help you.
- The worst is over. You will feel better eventually.
- I see you feel you are hurting more than you deserve.
- There are other people who agree that it was bad. I hope someone will hug them, too.
- How can I help you when you are so sad?
- You are allowed to laugh and cry. All of us feel happy at times and sad at times.
- I am sorry to see that it was really that bad for you.
Mark the communication mistakes you still make with your lollipop. Circle those that could cause your relationship to be shipwrecked and work on replacing these with good communication habits.
- I sometimes swear at him.
- I get very upset when he is emotional.
- I walk away when she cries because it upsets me.
- I don’t like all the questions.
- I don’t write any notes.
- I don’t pay attention to detail when she talks – it exhausts me.
- I don’t give feedback when he did something for me.
- I discuss her faults with other people.
- I pull and push when she gets discouraged instead of encouraging her.
- I often forget to tell him that I love him.
- I often don’t give enough timely information.
- I rush him when he tells a long story.
Evergreen parenting invites you to attend an Evergreen Parenting Course to be equipped for “all the trees in your garden” so that parenting and teaching young ones can be the joyous and fulfilling experience you always hoped it would be! Visit us at www.evergreenparenting.co.za and find us on Facebook!