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Say What?

Have you ever noticed how easily children accept what we say at face value, even if they don’t understand what we mean? Many times this occurs because children (and adults) misinterpret words and phrases, or they confuse one word with another.

For years our twin boys called their father’s golf clubs, “golf plugs.” Tissue for their runny noses was “tennis shoe.” Can you imagine the look on their Sunday school teacher’s face when they asked for a tennis shoe to blow their nose?

The twins are older now but occasionally they still mix up words. The other night we watched a basketball game together and one of them commented that a foul occurred “just as the buzzard sounded.”

Any mom will tell you that the best time to have a conversation with younger children is in the car. When the little tykes are strapped in by their seat belts moms have a captive audience. Last week on the way home from picking the boys up at school I asked them how their day went.

“Today we studied Kentucky history,” Grant said.

“That’s great. I love history,” I replied.

“We learned that during the Civil War monkeys burned down the courthouse.”

We were at a traffic light (actually the only traffic light in our small town) so I twisted around in my seat and looked at my son thoughtfully. There was only one logical explanation for his strange answer.

“Do you mean guerrillas?” I asked.

He nodded. “That’s what I said, monkeys!”

I was telling this story to a friend of mine and she said a similar incident happened with her youngest son.

“I knew something was bothering him but I didn’t know what. For days he acted strangely, especially around breakfast time. Finally I sat him down and forced him to tell me what was wrong. He had overheard my nieces discussing a news story about a serial killer and he was frightened because he thought there was a ‘cereal killer’ on the loose.”

So the next time you talk to a child remember: say what you mean and mean what you say, and then explain it a couple of times just to make sure they understood what you meant to say.

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