One of the most common parenting practices is also one of the least helpful: lecturing.
Long before Google listed about 2,170,000 results for a search on parent lecture unhelpful, Chazal warned us against lecturing children.
A person should always teach his student in a concise manner. (Pesachim 3b)
Whether regarding the mundane or the spiritual, anyone who uses excess words causes chait [sin or error]. We see this from Chazal who taught: a person should always teach his students in a concise way. (Alshich haKodesh on Shemos 28:31 and see there at length)
Sh'ein min hakol zokheh adam lilmod, a person does not succeed at learning from everyone. (Eruvin 47b) What makes some parents and teachers more successful than others?
A person does not succeed at learning from every one of his teachers. There are some teachers who teach in an organized manner and in a concise way. (Rashi ibid) They are the ones from whom children succeed at learning.
How do you plan for speaking to a child in a concise way?
First, decide what you are trying to say. What is the topic of this brief speech you wish to make? According to research, narrower topics make for more robust and comprehensible speeches. I suggest choosing one narrow topic per speech.
Once you have chosen a narrow, specific, topic, decide whether the intention of your brief discourse is to inform or to persuade.
An informative speech tells someone what you believe to be true or desirable. A persuasive speech tells someone why they should agree with what you believe to be true or desirable.
Informative speeches fail when they are lengthy. Persuasive speeches become lengthy when they are failing.
Most children have an attention span far shorter than an adult’s ability to continue speaking. A child’s attention span varies based on what it is that they are paying attention to. A child will pay attention to something emotionally neutral, such as impersonal information, for as long as she is able to, and retain some of that information. Depending on the individual child, that length of time will vary. Chazal did not give us a time limit. They said to be brief because the longer you speak, the more likely you will exceed a child’s limit of attention and retention. Your goal is for the child to want to hear more, not to wish she had heard less.
When the topic is emotionally loaded, attention spans appear to decrease. Actually, the child’s attention span does not decrease. His attention shifts from what is being said to what is happening inside of him: fear, resentment, anger, or whatever the emotion may be.
If your intention is to persuade, you might increase your words and intensity in inverse proportion to your child’s attention. The more you see that you are losing him, the more determined you become to get him back because he hasn’t been persuaded.
If your intention is to inform, you are more likely to accept your child’s inability to learn more at this time and postpone the lesson. You're paying attention to his ability to listen more than to your need to speak.
How can you tell when to stop speaking or to postpone and continue some other time?
That depends on whether your intention was to inform or persuade.
If you are imparting information, you stop when your child has mastered the information. Or you postone and continue each time your child has reached his limit of retention.
When you are attempting to persuade, you stop when you believe that your child understands what it is that you are trying to persuade him to believe.
If you have ever said, if you understood me you would agree with me you have made a common mistake. You mistook understand and agree for synonyms. They are not synonymous. When you make this mistake, persuasive lectures become lengthy and devolve into arguments.
There is nothing inherently bad about persuasive speech. There are many things parents are responsible to work at convincing children to do. Persuasive lectures are more likely to be concise and effective when these criteria are met:
Make sure you are credible, that you are urging your child to make the tough choices you make, to control her emotions the way you do, to respond in situations in the measured and thought out ways you model. Children see hypocrisy and you lose respect.
Make sure your statements are accurate. Hyperbole may sound impressive. Children sooner or later see reality and you lose credibility.
There is another type of speech In some circles it is called motivational speech. We call it musar and chizuk.
Make sure that most of the musar you offer inspires confidence to do something better in the future rather than focusing on shortcomings in the past.
Finally, whenever you speak with your child, consider the time and place. Make sure you and your child feel safe, that your conversation will be private and free of distraction.
(based on: indeed.com/career-advice/ career-development/types-of-speeches)
People are talking past one another. It isn't happening only in Washington, or in political circles, but increasingly within communities and even within families.
Worse yet, people with differing views today don't merely disagree; often, they can't even comprehend how those on the other side could possibly think the way they do…
Yet, ironically, the problem isn't so much that Americans aren't talking enough. They're talking plenty. A significant part of the problem is that they've stopped listening.
That is to say, too often Americans aren't listening to people on the other side closely enough to understand WHY they think what they think. Instead, the default position, fueled by the shouting on social media, has become to move immediately to anger, and then yell: You're just crazy.
(excerpted from: A Listening Deficit Plagues America, Gerald F. Seib, Wall Street Journal, February 1, 2022)
When you have finished speaking, make sure you listen. Keep listening until you understand, even when you don’t agree. Then do your best to keep your child safe when necessary, and work hard at letting her be independent when her safety is assured.
Rabbi Yitzchak Shmuel Ackerman is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor with specialties in marriage, dating, and parenting.
He is the author of Confident Parents, Competent Children, in Four Seconds at a Time Available at bookstores and on Amazon.
He can be reached at 718-344-6575.