Talking with Kids–Are They Children or Goats?
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I was on the radio in Trinidad, talking about “talking with kids,” when an indignant listener called in. “I keep hearing you talking about kids…they are not goats, they are children. If you call them kids, you are thinking of them as animals. If you call them children, maybe they will act like children and not animals,” he stated. Now, I’m paraphrasing, and yet his words brought up a very important point. I was so glad he called in. And here’s why…
First of all, he alerted me to the fact that I was insulting some of my listeners by using a term that had a very different meaning for them. He was referring to the word ‘kid’ defined as a baby goat. I was using the same word with a whole different definition. In this case, it may be cultural in nature, since the caller was from Trinidad. However, that highlighted the importance of knowing your listener. When talking with kids (and about kids) my use of the term is one of endearment and affection. I call all my patients, “my kids.” To me, ‘kids’ is a less formal term than children and conveys a sense of closeness. But to my caller, the term was not endearing at all. In fact, it was highly offensive. I was grateful for his call, because I was able to clear the air. I would not want him to just stop listening to the radio show and think poorly of me and my message.
Second of all, while the caller was making a specific point, his message had global significance. In any situation, it’s crucial when communicating with others, and particularly when talking with kids, that there be understanding. Otherwise, miscommunication occurs, feelings get hurt, attitudes develop and what started out to be a well-meaning conversation ends up being the cause of animosity and distance.
When Talking with Kids
When talking with kids, I find that parents have a tendency to use big words that kids don’t understand. When this occurs, I ask the child if she knows what that word means; most of the time she shakes her head ‘no.’ This makes parents realize that they are not always understood and gives them the opportunity to be clear about their communication. It also gives me an opportunity to encourage kids to ask if they don’t understand something that is being said to them. And, to help parents be mindful to keep their vocabulary on their child’s level. In this way, miscommunication can be avoided.
Thanks again to my Trinidad radio caller for inspiring this blog. He’s right. Kids are not goats. They are wonderful, amazing, unique and incredibly special beings. And so when talking with kids, it’s important that you use words they will understand, encourage them to ask if they don’t understand something and to check in with them to make sure they are hearing your message in the spirit in which you meant it to be heard.
Enjoy your kids!
In what ways do you make sure that your children understand what you are saying? What do you think of the term ‘kids?’ Is it endearing or offensive?