Last month in, Open-Ended Questions, I discussed the importance of getting to know your spouse. So, how did you do with learning something new about your spouse every day this past month? Were you able to ask open-ended questions? Did your spouse enjoy these discussions?
Open-ended questions may make some people uncomfortable. If you saw your spouse withdraw when you asked your questions, think about why that might be. You may need to soften your approach and not ask your questions like an interrogator, but with a twinkle in your eye. Observe how he responds to other’s questions. Maybe he is uncomfortable talking about himself and his background. He may not have vocabulary for emotions. Try asking questions that are less emotional, yet still give you a window into what makes him tick.
You may have to adjust your timing, location, or activity for talking. Make whatever adjustments you need to make, because building your understanding and friendship are vital to the health of your marriage.
I’m sure many of you had fun with the questions. Keep them up and get more creative as you practice this skill. Asking questions like these may take some practice, but every couple can benefit from the renewed understanding that develops.
Last month I ended by encouraging you to observe your baby or child to know them even better. Did you see how he/she reacts to tastes, smells, noise, smiles, hugs, strangers, and being alone? I’m sure you already knew the answers to many of these.
Some of these preferences are based in their personality and won’t change much throughout life. But others may change very often. What they liked yesterday, they may hate today. Their choice of toys and games they play with you changes very quickly too. So stay flexible and alert.
Though little babies do not understand your words, they do understand your tone. So, as you notice something about them, talk about it. Say things like, “I see you really like bananas today. Bananas are yummy.” Or “Ah, so you don’t want to play Peek-a-Boo right now. This Little Piggy is your favorite game today.” As you practice reflecting out loud what you are observing about your baby and child, you build bridges with them. They will feel more connected to you and your parent-child relationship strengthens.
I have a fun exercise for you on YourChildsJourney.com. There are different levels of consciousness that you can observe even in little babies. I’ve made a page called, States of Consciousness, with pictures of these levels. Try to match the pictures with the descriptions. See how well you do. Then be aware of how your baby demonstrates these levels of consciousness. (Note: Dad can do this too!)
Then there is another page with Baby Emotions. Since babies cannot tell you in words, it is important we can identify their facial expressions. See how well you do at recognizing these Baby Emotions. Be sure to tell your baby what you observe. They will learn the words for the emotions they feel as you continue to use the correct words. Of course, sometimes you will miss it entirely. That’s OK, keep practicing and you will get better at this non-verbal communication.
The Gottman Institute calls these exercises, building love maps. As we gain knowledge of each other and each of our children, we have a better ‘map’ to their heart. Do whatever you can, even in small ways, to build your understanding and create meaningful connections. It’s an idea with a great future investment.