Monday, April 17, 2017

Family Night: Improving Family Communication

Note: Many of you know I teach communication classes at two local colleges. I love my subject matter and have greatly benefitted personally from it. I believe there are many families who could use the information I teach to better improve their relationships at home. In response to this belief, I have created a series of family night lessons that focus on various aspects of communication. The following lesson focuses on verbal communication. If you have a specific communication need you would like to see in lesson form, let me know in a comment. Enjoy!

Verbal Communication

Purpose: To encourage effective, Christlike communication in the home.

Scripture: “Therefore, strengthen your brethren in all your conversation, in all your prayers, in all your exhortations, and in all your doings” (D&C 108:7).

Thought: “If we want our relationships to improve, we must learn to speak in positive ways that edify and build those around us” (Mark Ogletree).[1]

Key Term: Communication – “Communication is more than a sharing of words. It is the wise sharing of emotions, feelings, and concerns.”[2]

Lesson: A young mother had the habit of watching television during the bedtime hour. Exhausted from the day’s activities, she felt torn between talking with and caring for her children and taking personal time to enjoy her shows. After pondering the problem, the mother made the decision to turn off the television and make time to talk with her children. “After about two weeks of leaving the television off, I felt a burden somehow lifted. I realized I felt better, even cleaner somehow, and I knew I had made the right choice.”[3]

Verbal communication is central to family relationships. It is an indicator of how close family members are, as well as the means for developing that closeness, fostering teamwork, and promoting problem solving.  Without communication, relationships fumble and fade. As a result, keeping an open dialogue—genuine two-way interaction—between family members is crucial. However, talking together does not always come easily. As Rosemary Wixom taught, “It takes time to focus on the things that matter most. Talking, listening, and encouraging do not happen quickly. They cannot be rushed or scheduled—they happen best along the way.”[4]

Following the Principle of Cooperation[5] while conversing can help family members maintain effective dialogue:

1.      Be Clear – communicate in a straightforward manner; avoid ambiguity. Ask directly for what you need.

2.      Be Relevant – talk about what is related to the conversation at hand. Do not jump topics too quickly.

3.      Be Honest – present only information known or assumed to be truthful; do not lie or exaggerate.

4.      Be Informative – give neither too little nor too much information; get to the point in a timely manner. Be willing to share additional information if asked.

5.      Be Positive – check thoughts before speaking; strive to uplift, encourage, and inspire. Being continuously negative or critical often leads to conflict.

Activity: Come up with a secret code (e.g., reversed words, read only every other letter, PigPen code, etc.) and have family members encode positive messages to each other. Let each person decode their messages. Use this as an attention-getter to lead into discussing the importance of effective communication.
For Little Kids: Have each child choose a favorite fairy tale, storybook, or scripture story (this video story of The 3 Billy Goats would work well). Read, watch, or re-tell the story, then discuss how effective the communication was among the characters. Ask how the characters could have improved their communication. Use each of the Principle of Cooperation points as guidelines.

Challenge: Discuss strategies for bettering family dialogue overall. Select one of the five characteristics of the Principle of Cooperation to improve on in the upcoming week.

Suggested Music: “Let Us Oft Speak Kind Words” (Hymns no. 232) or “If the Savior Stood Beside Me” (available for download on, or see October 1993 Friend Magazine).

[1] Mark Ogletree, “Speak, Listen and Love,” Ensign, February 2014, 15.
[2] Marvin J. Ashton, “Family Communications,” Ensign, May 1976, 52.
[3] Susan Heaton, “Talk Time Instead of TV Time,” Ensign, Oct. 1998, 73.
[4] Rosemary M. Wixom, “Taking Time to Talk and Listen,” Ensign, April 2012, 10.
[5] Adapted from Lindblom, K., “Cooperating with Grice: A cross-disciplinary metaperspective on uses of Grice’s cooperative principle,” Journal of Pragmatics, 2001, 33:1601.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Memories

Note: In a month or so I have to teach a lesson at church for the Family History Committee on writing family stories or memories. In preparation for this I thought I would practice a little. This is a rough draft effort.

My parents always treated holidays with extra flair. And Easter was no exception. We colored eggs every year well into my teens. My older brother James was exceptionally artistically talented, so the egg coloring was his wheelhouse. The things he could do with a white Crayola crayon, a Paas decorating kit, and a dozen hard-boiled eggs were amazing. He made beautifully dyed eggs with floral scenes, Victorian designs, and silly messages. Jeff and I had fun with the dyed eggs too, but we mostly stuck with simple stripes and wavy lines.

When we were younger there was generally an egg hunt. My parents put chocolate, coins, and other small goodies in the eggs for us to find. They also hid the hard-boiled, dyed eggs (which we all loved to eat). We were pretty competitive about finding the eggs and would often re-do the hunt on our own as play. When we lived in Albuquerque we re-hid the eggs around the house, but one hard-boiled egg was left unfound until the smell led to it being found a week or so later up inside one of the green ceramic elephant side tables.

The last egg hunt I remember occurred the first Easter after moving to Mesa, Arizona. Easter Sunday was fairly late that year (1977), and the 90 degree heat of early summer had arrived. My parents hid the filled eggs all around the back yard in the morning before we went to church. The plan was to hold the egg hunt after church. Unfortunately, by the time we returned home mid-day, and found the eggs, all of the chocolate had melted inside them.

Easter clothes were another part of our holiday celebration. Each year I had a new Easter dress (some beautifully made by my sweet mom) and shoes to wear. A favorite Easter dress of mine was one with carrots across the front.  Some years my parents took a snap shot of us before church in our Easter finery. Looking back at some of the photos is a funny review of 1970s and 80s fashions. Here are a few of my Easter pictures from growing up:
1975, In my favorite carrot dress.
1977, I loved this strawberry jumper my mom made.

I am grateful for the fun Easter memories my parents created for us. They worked hard to not only celebrate the day, but to teach us about the importance of the Savior and his Atonement.  Their efforts are a main reason my testimony of the Savior continues to grow today.