Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care

When You Talk, Children Listen


Photo courtesy of Alec Couros.

Photo courtesy of Alec Couros.

A few weeks ago, a call from the school counselor stopped me in my tracks. The counselor was concerned because my children had arrived at school upset. They’d tearfully told their teachers and then the counselor that their “mom is having surgery and probably won’t make it off the table.” Shock and utter confusion were my first reaction until the explanation dawned on me: The wife of someone at my husband’s job – whose first name sounds like mine – is seriously ill and was scheduled for a surgery with a slim chance of survival. My guess was that my husband had mentioned her on the phone that morning and my children overheard. Talk about a game of Telephone gone wrong!

After assuring the counselor that I was whole and healthy and comforting my children, I made a quick call to my husband to check if my guess was right. Sure enough, it was exactly what I thought. Though I hope my husband would never discuss something like that knowing the children were within earshot, I still asked him to be more mindful of the fact that children are often listening when we adults aren’t aware.

Talking with Liv, who actually heard my husband’s statement and then relayed the message to her younger brother, I explained how adults need to watch what we say around children. Though she tends to be a bit of a drama queen, her reaction to her stepdad’s statement was totally understandable. And I told her as much. My husband didn’t frighten the children intentionally, but he frightened them nonetheless.

Cell phones and Blue Tooth ear pieces allow for conversations at our convenience. But they shouldn’t allow for them at the expense of our children. Perhaps it is necessary to weigh the impact our conversations may have on little listeners and have them behind closed doors. It’s a valuable lesson my family learned the hard way.

4 thoughts on “When You Talk, Children Listen

  1. I agree. Children are innocent, and have the right to remain that way. Sometimes, adults need to modify their behaviors and lifestyles slightly to help preserve that innocence as long as possible, in order to give their children a good life and future.

    • Celia, how true. Though much of children’s innocence is lost as they grow older, there are intentional ways adults can protect it. When that means modifying our behavior, that seems like a small sacrifice to gaurd someting so valuable and precious. Thank you for reading and sharing your insight.

  2. Thank you for the very important reminder…children hear everything we say but do not always understand what we mean…

  3. Marlo, now that I’ve had this experience, I am so much more aware not only my words but of how my children might interpret them. It’s caused me to really measure what I say and to use clear language. In some ways, I guess we parents never get out of the learning curve! Thanks for reading.