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Sadly, but the more parents talk, the less children learn.

Suppose your child were 16 and they had just passed the written part of the driver’s test with a perfect score. Intellectually they knew everything about driving, but they had never driven a single time in real life experience. Now is not the time to give them keys to the car and wave good-by from the door.

Life is more than theory and written answers.

Now this does not mean they have to learn everything the hard way—heaven forbid!—but the younger they are, the more abstract life is.

I remember trying to teach a lesson on honesty to children who were not yet 3 years old. I resorted to creating experiences. I picked up a ball and said, “I am holding a ball. That is true. ” I put the ball down. “Am I still holding a ball?” “no.” “If I said, ‘I am holding a ball,’ that would not be true.” Then I had them practice saying something true. They held or didn’t hold a ball and then said what they were doing. I had to create an experience that was not abstract.

The younger a child is, the more abstract most concepts are. If you said to a child, “Isn’t that the same thing you did yesterday? Didn’t you learn anything?” You have lost them. Yesterday they were with different people, they wore different clothes, and it was a different time of day. To them, it is not the same.

“Thing” is meaningless. It is as abstract as telling a two year old they need to be honest.

Use precise, simple words. And keep it brief so they can process it, and with repetition, remember it.

Another abstract concept is time.

They have lived only a few years. Everything you’ve experienced is in their future. To say to a teen that failed a test, “Don’t you care about your future? Don’t you care about getting into a good college? Don’t you care about preparing for those SAT’s?” are all meaningless questions. Basically, they care about now, the girl in chemistry class tomorrow, this weekend, tops.

They don’t care about your life stories either. Sorry, not yet. Recently I got my dad to tell me several of the stories of his life. He asked, “I haven’t told these to you before?” Who knows? Maybe he had. I’m older now. Now, I care. But my children don’t.

Keep your advice relevant and immediate.

Remember,
* The more you talk, the less children learn.
* They don’t understand abstract ideas.
* Talk about their life now.

Next week I’ll cover, using “Do,” not “Don’t,” and when to use few words, when to use many.

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