What is the best way to communicate when you want something to be done differently? How do you know if you are crossing the line between teaching a lesson and ranting on in a lecture? Communicating effectively is key in almost every relationship not just parenting.
Unfortunately, I learned this lesson the hard way. As a small group leader, it was my job to let a group member know her tardiness was negatively affecting several aspects of the group as well as her own experience. My thought was to accumulate the most evidence to support my case for punctuality and lay it out before her. I began with the most recent offense and then went on to list several past examples, just to back myself up. I wanted to emphasize the importance of on-going punctuality so I continued droning on about her continued tardiness.
When I finally came up for air, I realized I left her feeling shamed and humiliated. Thankfully, she honestly let me know, I only needed to remind her of the importance of punctuality. The lesson of punctuality was drowned in a lecture. She already knew the past offenses, she could see the negative affect it had on the group and her experience, and she certainly didn’t need more examples.
It’s easy to slip into lecture mode when all that is needed is a lesson. Recently, I watched this happen with a parent and her son. The boy needed a lesson in doing things thoroughly and with excellence the first time. Instead of just pointing out the offense at hand, the mom went on to lecture about the past offenses that were similar, not mowing the lawn completely, leaving parts unfinished, etc. She continued to predict that his sloppiness would most likely continue in his upcoming schoolwork.
The defeat and shame was evident on the boy’s face. The lesson of excellence was lost in the lecture. The tone went from “you have done something wrong and so should be doing something differently” (his behavior) to “you are lazy, one who always cuts corners and will continue to do sloppy work” (his character). YUCK!
How can we communicate correction to those around us with a gentle lesson instead of a lecture?
- Say it once.
- Stick with the offense at hand.
- Stay away from negative future predictions.
- Talk about the behavior. (You didn’t do this thoroughly.)
- Avoid any comments about negative character (You are lazy and cut corners.)
- Predict positive behavior in the future (Next time you’re asked to do this, I know you are responsible and will do it well the first time.)
A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.
How do you keep from falling into lecture mode when a lesson is the goal?
By Heather Larson, M.A.
Wife to Peter
Mom of three
1 Corinthians 13 Team Member
Associate Director of 10 Great Dates