It’s been my opinion that good communication skill is one of the most vital facets of what makes up being a successful parent. And it’s more than just “knowing how to listen”, it also includes skill at handling originations.
In this context, “origination” is meant something voluntarily done or said by someone, concerning themselves, their reactions, feelings or difficulties.
Mis-handling such originations can be like playing with fire, especially when you blithely ignore a heartfelt communication from your child. This quote from a lecture L. Ron Hubbard gave in 1957 whilst teaching a communication class for counselors, makes the point rather well:
“Well, I’ll dare say that every argument you’ve ever gotten into was because you did not handle an origin. Every time you’ve ever got into trouble with anybody, you can trace it back on the track and find out there was an origination someplace along the line that you didn’t handle.
“Person walked in and he said, ‘Whee,” he said, “I’ve just passed with the highest mark in the whole school!’
“And you say, “You know, I’m awfully hungry. Should we go out and eat?”
“You’ll find yourself in a fight. He feels ignored. He originated a communication to have you prove to him that he was there and he was solid.
“Now, most little kiddies get frantic about their parents when their parents don’t handle their originations properly, because handling an origination merely tells the person, ‘All right, I heard it. You’re there.‘”
Now, personally, I’ve had to mis-handle this a few times with my own kids before seeing the error of my ways. I’ve had the soul-crushing experience of getting annoyed at my daughter’s not cleaning her room or something, only to realize that she’s painstakingly crafted this wonderful drawing to show how much she loves mommy & daddy, and has been TRYING TO SHOW IT TO ME. Leave it to me, the bumbling dad, to realize I did the communication equivalent of backing over her with a dump truck, telling her to go get dressed or whatever it was, when she was merely attempting to elucidate her love for us.
And she’s got a lot of love to give.
I’ve also had a meltdown with my 3-year-old son, where I was about to resort to Hulk-Hogan-WWF moves to get his PJs on, missing the fact that all he wanted to do in life was to just show me this train track he’d assembled. I missed the boat getting that this was his sole communication, and ended up with a thermonuclear meltdown. All it took was a, “Hey buddy! WOW look at that train track bridge you made. JUST LOOK AT IT. Can freight trains AND passenger trains use it? Is Thomas SUPER EXCITED ABOUT THIS? YES? Well GREAT! Now, how about your PJs?” Problem solved.
Nobody is a perfect communicator, but we can all get better.
If you’ve not recently brushed up on your skills for guiding and handling communication, give this free online course a try. It’s got drills you can sit down and do with your friends or your spouse, which take up each of the component parts to handling communication. Give it a whirl!