Prep Talk by Noreen Heffernan

Communication is vital in any relationship. I should know, I went to school for it. I remember on my first day in grad school, in a huge stadium-sized class, the teacher asks, “what is communication?” She looks at the roster and calls, “Where’s Noreen?” Why me, I thought. Here I am, in grad school going for my Public and Corporate Master’s degree in Communication and I freeze. I blank. I actually tend to blank out in large crowds, especially when I am asked to speak. “I have no idea,” I respond, half shouting. I got a good laugh. Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t joking. Now, I’ll never forget the definition of communication. It’s so simple. It is the interaction between 2 or more people. Duh! Couldn’t I muster up something along those lines? Apparently not.

Marriages don’t work unless the husband and wife communicate properly. You can’t walk around with assumptions and what-ifs? Let out your feelings. Tell each other how you feel so you can work on any problems you might have, little or big. It is the same thing with friendships. You can’t hear from Sally Ann that Nancy said you look like you gained 10 pounds. Talk to Nancy. Maybe she said it, maybe she didn’t. But, ask her. If you are real friends, she should be able to communicate her (nonsense) feelings to your face.

If communication is key in marriages, friendships, at work and in life, of course it would be true for parents and children. It is something I have learned along with the way. Trial and error. It is so important to communicate with your children.

I remember when my 5 year old daughter was 3 and I was taking her to a little gym space called, “My Gym.” I loved it when she was younger, but when they turn 2 and a half and 3, My Gym decided to make the kids sit and wait for their turn. They would get kind of short with kids also. “Betty-Ann, go back and sit or we will call you last.” Poor Betty-Ann wherever she is. I didn’t love the idea of this. They said that they are trying to prep them for pre-school. I think, but I brought her here to run and get energy out, not sit and wait and let the minutes tick by. My daughter wouldn’t sit. She wanted to get up and run around. I actually didn’t blame her. I mean, we were at a fun gym with bright colors everywhere and trampolines. But, every single week before class, I would prep her. “Ok, we are going to My Gym class today. Remember the teacher wants you to wait your turn so make sure to listen and sit there until your name is called. You are going to want to run around and play, but it is important to sit, wait, and listen.” After consistently prepping her before class, she did in fact wait her turn. I don’t know how, I mean, even I wanted to get up and jump on the trampoline. I pulled her out early because frankly, I didn’t like the establishment, but I was proud of the fact that she did what she was supposed to do. It was the communication. It was the prep work. She knew what to expect.

These children are flying by the seat of their pants. They don’t know the rules. They don’t know what to expect unless we tell them. We need to explain things beforehand. We need to soften any blows. We need to anticipate for them. If they are aware of what is expected of them, they are more likely going to at least try to do it.

My 3 year old had a FULL-OUT, backward walking into tables, tantrum at a knick-knack store in town over a month ago. They had huge lollipops there (Why?) and of course she wanted one. I said no and wouldn’t back down (as she had a cake pop from Starbucks not 5 minutes prior). She was actually licking the last bit of cake pop with one hand as she was pointing to the lollipop with the other. I wanted to be like, “do you see this picture? Does this look ok?” Of course she isn’t THERE yet. So, she was carried out kicking and screaming. I was, of course, embarrassed. (Because why wouldn’t I be?!) So, last week we were going to the same store. In the car, I prepped her. I said, “We are going to a store with huge lollipops and I want to tell you now that you cannot have one. You had too many sweets yesterday and we aren’t having any today. If you even ask me once, we are leaving the store.” She said, “Ok mama.” We walked in the store and she walked right past those lollipops. She took a cute little peak, but she never asked or pointed. I was pretty impressed. I mean, she just turned 3 (the little cutie) and she resisted. She knew what was expected of her and she delivered. Ahhh, IT WORKED!!!!!! I actually couldn’t believe it. I mean, this girl is a lollipop-aholic.

Evidently, consistent communication is so important.

As we help our children navigate through life, let us try to do it openly and with constant communication. It can never hurt. It can only help. And as they grow, they will start to understand the rules of life and act accordingly. After all, just because they are kids, doesn’t mean they should get a free pass.

So, if you happen to be on your way to the Disney store for a gift for a friend. Prep them before hand. We are getting a gift, so you cannot get something. Or, if you are heading to the doctor and they are getting a shot, explain it to them. “It will hurt for a second and then you will be ok. I’ll be there for you.”

Communicate. Share your knowledge. Be in touch with your children. Talk to them. Pass it on. Prep them.

A little prep work goes a long way. Good luck out there!

~Noreen Heffernan,Writer, MA in Public and Corporate Communications, Certified in PR Writer, Growing Ladies