Heeding the Call

Our children begin communicating with us long before they are using understandable words in our mother tongue. From conception forward they have entered a lifelong conversation with us in which they are continuously seeking feedback while providing us with valuable information about their wellbeing. This communication is highly developed and only in its most obvious manifestation are words actually used. As parents we can develop our listening skills to include hearing those unspoken messages that can then guide our choices and inform our personal interactions with our children.

As young babies, our children will use whatever resource they have to communicate their needs to us. For some this is a simple psychic connection in which the parents are tuned into the child to the degree that the baby’s needs are met as easily and quickly as the parents own needs. For others this requires more active and vocal communication is the form of crying, screaming and agitation. The point at which we respond is an indication to the child for future reference of what they need to do in order to get our attention. This feedback loop is setting the stage for a long time to come and will have an enormous impact on our long-term interactions with our children.

I clearly remember the first 18 months of my son’s life in which he would cry inconsolably for two hours every night, like clockwork from midnight until two. I walked in all weather up and down the street and through the house rocking my child; fluctuating between deep compassion and exhausted collapse. Then one night I awoke to the screams with the thought that he simply needed to go pee and sorely disliked a wet diaper. I took him to the toilet and within moments of using the toilet he was asleep. It was over, after 18 months of crying I had finally heeded the call and responded appropriately. This lesson has come back to me repeatedly over the years as I have gotten better at reading the unspoken messages my child sends me. We have developed a call and response system that is built on mutual respect, right timing and a consideration for each other’s needs in any given moment.

I believe there is always a need behind every form of communication a child uses regardless of whether I enjoy the way the child has sought my attention. I seek to respond to the need while educating the child on how I prefer to be communicated with and how they can best get others to respond to them in a positive way. When a child uses a form of communication I do not enjoy such as hitting, biting or screaming I seek to understand the underlying issue. I believe that children are always seeking to belong and any action they use that threatens this basic survival need is done in desperation. I do not think we serve our children when we punish them for using actions we do not approve of instead we can support them with age appropriate lessons on what we would prefer. If we respond to the child before they use this behaviour or respond compassionately when they do, they learn both that they are valued and that they have other options.

These lessons reverberate throughout the child’s life impacting their image of themselves and their beliefs about the world around them. I want children to grow into healthy adults who are confident in themselves and their community to meet the diverse needs of a thriving society. When we respond to our child we are telling them that they matter, that what they have to say will be heard and that how they communicate contributes to their wellbeing. From the hungry cry of an infant to the silent communication of the teenager our children are always talking and it is up to us to listen.

Our communication with our children can begin the moment we are ready to listen to them and develops at the rate and to the degree we are willing to engage. I have friends who met their children in dreams and visions long before conception so that when the child was born a deep connection was already forged. I also have friends who met their children as adults due to adoption or a life made to busy to connect and still a deep connection was created. Our children are always ready to enter conversation with us