This is Their Language

It doesn’t matter how old your kids are. It doesn’t matter where you’re from or how many tutors you’ve hired for them. It doesn’t matter if they’ve gone to therapy. It doesn’t matter if you have the most connected and open relationship. It doesn’t matter if they’re in college studying language. 

The primary language of children is behavior. Not words. 

As we say, actions speak louder than words. And the younger your kids are, the more likely they are to speak with actions instead of words. This is for one simple, undeniable reason: they don’t have the words yet. 

On top of that, kids also don’t understand their feelings—the physical ones or the emotional ones. Quite often they don’t even know they’re feeling them. Watch an 18-month old with an earache—there are no words, there is only discomfort and pawing at the sides of their head or waking up in the middle of the night screaming. Watch an 8-year-old with anxiety—there are no words, there are only stomach aches and panic and wet beds. 

Could you—at 7 or 11 or even 21—have expressed depression or ennui or doubts about your worth or your sexuality? That is, if you even understood that something connected to those emotions was going on inside you?

No, you couldn’t. This is why we need to ‘listen’ to our kids in more ways than just the obvious, literal way. We have to watch them. We have to be patient. We have to understand that a tantrum—even if it’s screaming about the iPad—is almost certainly about something else. We have to understand that lethargy or sliding grades are statements. It’s your child speaking to you through behavior. 

The question is: Will you hear them? Will you be able to talk to them about it? No just with your words but with your own actions.

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