When it comes to listening to parental lectures, speeches, sermons, and monologues, children have long had rather short attention spans and questionable recall, at best. Unless, of course, you are fervently whispering to your hubby in the kitchen about the latest outrage committed by his crazy Aunt Sally, and then, at that moment alone, your kids hear every damn word and keep it memorized for all time!
Eavesdropping aside, in today’s era of instantaneous information and excessive screen time, our children’s attention to our messaging is further diminished. While there may be times when your child will totally tune in to a 30 minute lecture (rare, rare times), more often than not, we need to get our point across in mere seconds, before the moment is gone.
I confess to loving long winded, passionate, example laden, speeches that range from politics to politeness, but I’ve also been doing this gig long enough to know that none of those talks will be remembered. While my children might remember “how crazy mom gets” over such and such issue, the basic essence of the message will be lost. That is, if I didn’t tag it.
That’s right – tag it. I reduce heavy, important, character defining messages to catchy taglines… because it works. These succinct phrases not only keep my children from thinking I am an onerous wind bag, but more importantly, they make a permanent impression.
I want the values, morals, lessons that are important to our family utterly imprinted in my kids minds. I want my repetitive, irritating taglines to pop into their minds when as teens they are faced with tough decisions. I want these lines to bring a smile to their faces as they recall them in early adulthood. I want my children to cringe, and rush to the phone to complain to their siblings that they just sounded like mom, when these lines involuntarily pour out of their mouths at their own children. You just can not get an effect like that through lecturing.
The 180 billion dollar advertising industry in this country is no fool. Think of all the taglines that you have heard over your lifetime that you will NEVER forget:
“Where’s the beef?” (Wendy’s)
“Good to the last drop” (Maxwell House)
“Just do it” (Nike)
“Reach out and touch someone” (AT&T)
“Breakfast of Champions” (Wheaties)
“Can you hear me now?” (Verizon)
You get the point! Taglines stick… forever.
So when one of my children has committed some unmentionable crime towards their sibling and I am tempted to launch into a long spiel about the importance of kindness– if for no other reason than just to torture them– I quickly reset and remember to tag it. So I skip the lecture and say, “kindness rules.”
When one of my children inevitably is being a miserable beast for no good reason, I simply remind them (albeit repeatedly) to, “choose happiness.” On this one, however, I have to admit that I usually can not resist the temptation to follow it up with, “every moment of every day you have a choice to make. You can choose unhappiness or you can choose to enjoy life!” Let me tell you, kids just love hearing that crap when they are bent on being miserable little punks.
Despite the groans and eye rolls, I know the messaging is clear because all of my favorite taglines (including “compassion first!” and “don’t judge anyone. Ever.”) are backed by years of killer speeches delivered at times when the kids are trapped, like in the car for instance. Knowing that base is well in place, I can go with the taglines and rest assured that they get my point.
I imagine that there will be some taglines that I will use forever, and others that will be added as my kids become teenagers. For example “just say no” is certainly not a line you would want to use with your two year old, but just might be worth saying to your teen…like every day. Although at that point it will be #justsayno.
So think about which values are most important to your family and how you can boil them down into a few concise words. These tags are different from the usual, “stop choking your brother,” or “don’t pee on the neighbors bushes,” or “pick up your crap before I throw it away,” that you might find yourself repeating ad nauseam. Those are requests, the most forgettable of all things a parent says! They do not convey the greater context and they aren’t memorable. A more effective message might be, “violence hurts,” or “pee is for toilets,” or “keep it clean.”
Have some fun with this and let us know what you come up with! Just remember, these words will live on long after you are gone!
About the author: Jeana is a freelance writer living and loving on the beautiful island of Kaua’i. She specializes in travel writing, copywriting, blogging, email marketing, and ebook writing and publishing. You can find her at http://www.shelancewriter.com. Although her passion is writing, her greatest joy is being “mom” to four awesome kids and “honey” to one hunky hubby! All of her spare time is spent exploring and playing outdoors with her family and attempting to be “fabulous at 40”!