I took my 4-year-old son to the doctor last week. (No biggie, he just has a little cold and ear infection.) He REALLY likes the doctor's office, so it can be hard to drag him out of there! Many many questions, and a lot of interest in the different instruments and tools. As we were getting shoes on, putting away the book he'd been reading, etc., and he inevitably started dawdling. So I found myself improvising some lines of I Will Survive:
"Go on now go
Walk out the door
Let's get a move on
Don't need to be here anymore..."
We finally made it out the exam room door, where our doctor was filling out some paperwork and chuckling... at us! It was definitely pretty ridiculous, so I laughed back and said "hey, it works!"
It got me thinking - I've been making up little songs and singing to my son throughout his whole life. Part of it is to keep me sane and help me cope with difficult parenting moments. (Some of my greatest mommy hits were spontaneously composed while changing the grossest of diapers.) But a lot of it is because singing is such a great form of communication!
Ever notice how we like to sing instructions in class, rather than speaking them? Aside from the simple fun and joy of singing, there are some very good reasons for that!
⁃ Singing is ear-catching. There are speaking voices all around us, but a tonal pattern can make you sit up straighter and pay attention. It's audibly different than normal talking, so the ear will tend to pick up melodic singing faster.
⁃ Singing is nice to listen to. Speaking in a gentle tone is also wonderful, but there's something special about the beauty of a simple melody.
⁃ Singing can soften communication with children. Especially when you need to give instructions! Not everyone will always be ready to clean up and move onto the next activity. As a parent or teacher, singing can soften the blow when you have to be the bearer of not-so-great news.
⁃ Singing can be silly! I find humor to be really helpful when it comes to communicating with children. With singing, you can come up with funny rhymes, sing in different funny voices, sing fast or slow for effect, and replace familiar lyrics with words about whatever you're doing (or trying to accomplish).
⁃ Singing with children is participatory! Children often times can't help but sing along. Having kids try to fill in the rhymes is a great way for them to take ownership of the tasks they need to do. For example, I like something easy such as "yoo hoo hoo, can you find your..." "shoe!" 9 times out of 10, my son will then run and get the shoe.
Singing has other neat situational uses with kids. Back when my sister was teaching her daughters how to brush their teeth, she had them "sing like Ariel" to get them to open wide! (This was particularly amusing as they kept on singing through the actual teeth-brushing.) I borrowed the trick later on when teaching my son, with great success.
You don't have to be a terrific singer to borrow the trick of singing with your kids! As I sometimes tell the parents in my music classes, your children just like to hear the sound of your voice. :) Try singing to provide your kids with guidance or instruction. You might find it to reduce frustration, help with listening, and who knows - maybe you'll walk out the door just a little faster!