My child was two years old the first and last time he ran out into the road. We lived in the country so the probability for danger was low but that did not stop me from yelling, screaming, racing after him and yanking him up as swiftly as possible. All followed by some significant discipline. I never wanted him to do that again and he didn’t. However, I doubt seriously that I conveyed the entire message to him. I know I loudly communicated my anger and fear but did I communicate my hope and desire and love equally as well. Do you tend to be like that with yourself? When we’re upset with ourselves we express a lot of anger and maybe a little fear but seldom have a full conversation that reveals the hope, desire and love behind the other emotions.
Complete the Conversation
The complete conversation that a frantic parent wants to communicate involves anger, fear, an appeal and love. It might sound something like this: (Anger) I’m so angry with you for running out in the street without looking both ways to see if any cars are coming. (Fear) I’m so scared that you will be badly hurt or even worse. (Appeal) I want you to pay more attention when you are playing near the road. Stop and look both ways. Only go into the street after your toy if no cars are coming from either direction.* (Love) I love you so much. I want you to be safe and healthy. You are so precious to us. We need you to be around for a long time. You deserve to have lots of fun and stay safe. Do you understand? Gee! That’s a very different kind of message. In your own childhood, you can probably identify many times when you received only part of the message, not the full message. You may even see how you’re currently getting this stunted communication from your boss, co-workers, spouse, friends when what they really mean to communicate is the complete message.
What's the Full Message?
Sadly, it also becomes the way we communicate with ourselves. What would it sound like to speak the entire message to yourself (and others)? Make a list of the things that upset you the most — eating habits, exercise routine, work ethic, time wasted, lack of family time. Maybe you’ve told yourself that you don't get up early enough. You watch too much TV. You spend too much time on social media. You’re lazy. You need more sleep. Write it all down and then practice communicating this information to yourself giving the complete message which includes anger, fear, an appeal and love. It might sound like this: (Anger) You’re so lazy. You need to get up earlier. You have no self-discipline. What’s your problem? (Fear) If you don’t take advantage of the early morning hours, I’m afraid you’ll never make the kind of progress you want to make. I’m afraid if you don’t start a new schedule, you’re project will never be completed and your dreams will never be realized. (Appeal) I want you to set your alarm for 6:30. I want you to place it on the other side of the room so that you’ll have to get out of bed to turn it off. I want you to stumble to the bathroom and get directly into the shower after you turn off the alarm. I want you to start working on your project before you check email or social media or do any other part of your “to do” list, in order to optimize the morning hours. (Love) I love you. I want you to have a wonderful life. You deserve to have your dreams come true. I want you to live life fully.
When you begin to speak to yourself (and your children) in a way that communicates the full message it changes the way the message is received. Truthfully, it changes the message entirely. We immediately go from faultfinder to mentor simply by completing the message. Note that the appeal needs to be very specific - a list of action steps. Once we have included all four parts, we have the “why” attached to the emotion, as well as the request we are asking of ourselves. This sets us up for a completely different response. Jack Canfield calls this turning your inner critic into an inner coach.
*If you are wondering, no two-year old should be playing by the street or allowed to go in the street to retrieve a toy. This dialog is for a school age child. Just wanted to clarify, since I started with a story of a two year old. This part of the appeal would need to sound differently for preschoolers. But you already had that figured out.