When less is best

Sally (not her real name) works part-time and is able to pick her three children up from school and preschool each day. Some days, she still has to attend to some emails or make a few calls after they all get back from school. One afternoon, Sally had a really important call to make, so she came up with a plan. On the way to school, she picked up some ice cream and some cones. She told the kids that she had an important phonecall to make. She stressed that it was essential that she have some peace and quiet to make the call and that they had to behave themselves. She said that she had a treat for them and that they could watch a DVD while they ate their ice cream. She must have asked them five times if they understood. They nodded each time.

The phone call only took ten minutes and she didn’t hear a peep out of them. But when she came out of the study, she not only saw three children covered in ice cream, but her glass sliding doors were also smeared. It took her over an hour to clean up the mess and even longer to calm down. I asked her what normally happens in the afternoon and she said that they had some afternoon tea and watched some TV for half an hour before doing their homework or playing on their own. In other words, if she hadn’t said so much about the phonecall, chances are they would have been fairly quiet anyway.

Modern parents often give a very long-winded explanation for why their child can’t do or have something. Grandparents will often just say: Because I said so.

Couples can make the same mistake. Yes it’s important for us to talk to our partners, but if we use too many words, our meaning can be lost. Megan (not her real name) made this mistake when her husband commented that he wanted to see more of his family. Megan’s response to his comment was a 15 minute rant about how she was sick and tired of organising everything and if he wanted to see his family, he should make it happen. He in turn yelled back that she has never liked his family and that’s why he has been isolated from them. The fight went on for two hours and wasn’t even resolved. Imagine how different it would have been if Megan’s reply had simply been: Yes, that’s a good idea. He would have felt supported and if he wanted her to organise something, he would have had to ask nicely.

I could give so many examples, but I don’t want to lose my message by using too many words.


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