Voice Lessons for Parents

Nobody loves me but my mother,
And she could be jivin’ too.

–B. B. King, “Nobody Loves Me But My Mother”

Seen in VOICE LESSONS FOR PARENTS — What to Say, How to Say It, and When to Listen by Wendy Mogel, PhD (OCLC WorldCat, Amazon). How wonderful to think that we have an ability to learn and grow in wisdom throughout our lives, even if we may regret that the lessons come after we could have used them. (Experience is a hard teacher; the test comes before the lesson.)

Our daughter grew into a beautiful person with a warm, generous spirit . . . despite my manifold mistakes as a parent. The result is a testament to the good influences of her mother, my wife. Daughter left the homestead ages ago, but seeing as how there is a child (or several) inside all of us, and as I seek to enhance my communication effectiveness — with myself, my wife, daughter, relatives, friends, partners, associates, students, and strangers — this book struck a responsive chord for me.

These are some of the lessons I took from it:

  • Always be modeling the best of what you want for the other.
  • Respect the autonomy of the other.
  • View the other as an individual, not as a representative of a class, nor as someone to compare to others.
  • Use authority to protect and to serve, not as a way to control or feel superior, nor as a way to impose your views.
  • Hold space for others, where they may express themselves. But do not demand their attention or communication.
  • Don’t take it personally. I like the advice I read ages ago when I was a software developer, about how to build robust software that plays well with other software. Be tolerant of the things you take in, and scrupulous about what you give out (Postel’s law, the robustness principle).
  • Maintain a friendly, businesslike atmosphere. Approachable, pleasant, purposeful, practical, unemotional.
  • Just as with the claims that body language can say more than our language, when communicating we want to exercise mindfulness and good intention with our tone and pitch, facial expression, tempo, timing, and setting. (Also consider Craig Ferguson’s “1) Does this need to be said? 2) Does this need to be said by me? 3) Does this need to be said by me now?”)

I learned from this book about Common Sense Media, a media review and advocady site (movies, books, TV, games, apps, and websites) dedicated to the well-being of kids of all ages. The one minute reviews are terrific, and you can search for media by age group appropriateness and by message or lessons imparted.

Whether or not you are a parent, I highly recommend Voice Lessons for Parents for its valuable communication life skills.