I talk far too much. I talk too much because I am female and because I am genetically predisposed to over talk. Because of this I am very mindful about how I speak to my sons. All the research shows that men and boys interpret information aurally far differently than females. So when I give instructions to my sons I can almost hear myself talking far too much. With my teenage son, my husband is often left to deal with him so that I can avoid becoming the nagging mother. But at the same time I have one ear open and hear the interaction that occurs. It plays out something like this……’stop being an egg……’ ‘pick that up…..’ ‘hurry up’…. ‘leave it alone’. I’m sitting there listening, thinking this boy is going to be emotionally scarred for the rest of his life because of the way his father is talking to him. But it works. He responds. He does it. He loves his father no less than any other time. The jobs get done. If I were to ask him to do something for me, it would be ‘can you please put this away because……’ with usually a very long-winded reason for why I’m asking him to do the job for me. Invariably the request is forgotten, because he didn’t hear all the instructions. He just heard a barrage of words and quickly tuned out. I then get frustrated that I have had to repeat myself, and feel offended that he didn’t pay attention to me in the first place.
So over the past few weeks I have been undertaking some informal observations with my youngest son in the way I can have my instructions interpreted. As a 3 year old, he manages very well in 2 and 3 step instructions. This is unusual, as I would expect 3 year olds to be able to just manage simple 2 step instructions such as pick up teddy and put him on the table. I think the success of my son following more complex instructions is in the breakdown of language when delivering them. I have been trying hard to state the steps in one, two or three word phrases. For example teeth, pick up toys, bed. Then I hit ‘repeat’ to almost provide a rhythmical pattern to the instructions in order for them to be retained long enough to be completed. Teeth, pick up toys, bed….teeth, pick up toys, bed…….and I can often hear my son repeating this to himself as he works through the instructions.
The benefits of this approach are numerous. Firstly, the success felt in following someone’s instructions and receiving the feedback when completed. Secondly the ability to develop a way of remembering instructions, retaining information and processing it aurally. Thirdly, not being bamboozled by the ‘noise’ unnecessary words can create for our boys. Simply keeping things matter-of-fact.
So Mums, Aunties, Nanas, Grandmas and sisters. Keep it simple and stop talking quite so much! Choose your moments to engage with the boys in your life verbally. Of course, we must talk to our boys, model language they need, discuss emotions, problem solve and scaffold self-management. But learn to recognise the glazed look….the distracted stare….or the need to repeat several times. These are definite indicators of a male being ‘talked to’ far too much.