Many of our readers know that Chuck and I are taking tennis lessons. This has been a surprisingly fun and humbling experience. We are still pretty terrible after 8 lessons, but we can now sometimes hit the ball with our rackets which believe me, is a great improvement.
Tennis is our latest metaphor for life. Just the other day, the instructor was telling me about keeping score. He said it was pretty easy. I started to listen to his lecture. He said that the first point is 15 and the second 30 and the third 40 and the 4th point wins except when there is a tie or deuce or something like that and then there is an advantage and games and sets and tiebreaks and matches and I had no idea what he was talking about so then I spaced out and sort of started to think about other things like how strange it is that the tennis ball doesn’t seem to go in the right direction. And then the instructor asked if I understood scoring and I said “yes.”
I felt like a kid. I really had not been listening after the first or second sentence. It got me to thinking about how often parents do the same to kids? Do you ever start off with a simple message to your child, and keep talking and talking? I know I did.
If you say, “Did you hear me?”
A child of almost any age will respond, “Yes.”
So, parents and tennis instructors keep your messages short—one or two sentences. Check for understanding by asking the child to repeat what he or she heard. Try to provide concrete examples. Repeat and give lots of time for practice. Kids and adults space out when given too much information. I think I’ll tell my tennis instructor the truth. I wasn’t listening.
Photo by JE Theriot, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.