Have you ever felt overwhelmed and beaten up by a barrage of words coming at you. You know, the weariness of that friend that won’t stop talking. Or the meeting that goes on and on; people talking, talking, talking. It can feel like you’re being buried alive in words. Our kids feel like this – a lot. There’s so much coming at them at home, in school, from our always plugged in tech world. Without realizing it, we literally throw up on them again and again, day in and day out. And we wonder why they’re not listening or responding. This is a pretty universal parent child problem, but it’s even more of a problem with our visual kids. Right brain visual kids live in world of images not words. The right side of brain does best processing pictures not words. And as much as we want our kids to develop good language skills, if we want results – we need to slow down and speak in ways our right brain kids can respond to.
If you’re a Leftie: If you’re a logical linear left-brain parent, chances are you love words and the more the merrier. This can be good for you but not for your visual kid. As you’re explaining what needs to happen in great precise detail because you think everyone wants to hear that much detail – you’ve lost them. They started listening – waiting for the ‘what to do’ but got lost in the landslide of language.
If you’re a Rightie: If you’re a right-brain visual thinker, chances are your words are not very organized or specific. You may be stringing different trains of thought together, using run on sentences, or are so disjointed in your thinking, the kids aren’t sure what you’re talking about anymore. There were times my own kids would look at me with blank faces and I knew I’d done it again. I’d lost them. When they got older they often said – “Mom! Finish a sentence!” Meaning, finish one thought before you start that next one, because you’re driving us crazy!
Whether you’re a Left or Right-brain parent, we need to honor the way our visual kids’ brain works and make adjustments to how we’re speaking. Doing this will benefit everyone around us.
Here are a few key things to consider:
Less Is More
Our visual kids struggle to organize their own thoughts and actions so the fewer incoming words they need to push through the better. This is so important at home and in school. When we’re not careful we put so much extra burden on them without realizing it. Yes, there are times things need to be explained in more detail, but not every time.
“After your shower remember to pick up your towel. I’m not here to clean up after everybody. I’ve got other things to do. And who needs that mess on the floor anyway. And don’t think it needs to be on bedroom floor either. There’s enough of a mess …. !”
You get the idea. Instead, think about the situation and cut to the chase. Keep it simple and to the point.
“Hang up your towel!”
Stop Predicting Doom
We do this way more than we realize. It’s actually pretty funny to hear what we’re really saying. We often skip direction, assuming it’s been said and we go straight for the catastrophe that lies ahead if the right things don’t happen.
“That dog’s going to bite you.”
“You’re going to fall and break your neck.“
“Do you want to fail fourth grade?”
This is especially tough on kids who are feeling overwhelmed. What are they supposed to do??? Now there’s a dog that’s going to bite them!!!?
Stop talking about the problem and tell them what to do:
“Be away from the dog now.”
“Put your bottom on the chair.”
“Time to finish homework.”
Back it Up In Writing
Even after trimming back what I said to my kids, there was still some confusion over next steps. This was especially true when our conversation included a string of things to do. To make the follow up easy on everyone, write a To Do list.
- Keep it simple.
- Limit the number of items.
- List things in logical order; what gets done first, second and third. This is especially significant for younger children.
If you have an emerging or young reader, make the list with words and pictures, but be sure to limit the number of things on the list.
As the founder and CEO of an education franchise company, I’ve seen first hand how much language affects education outcomes. We’re so committed to talking and teaching in ways that offer the most success to our students, “Communication with Understanding’ is one of our core values. As parents and teachers we need to adjust our language so the listener can hear us better and if that listener is a visual kid, it means a lot fewer words.