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Color-coded Conversations

May 7, 2018
By Heidi Maness Hartwiger - Natural Parent, Natural Child Series , OVParent

Whether soft or bold, colors are an integral part of our lives. Remember graduating from the box of 16 to the box of 64 crayons? Oh, the joy of colors! Oh, the decisions! The tantalizing names: apricot, magenta and burnt sienna. Nine variations of green ranged from sea green to forest green. Ten shades of blue went from periwinkle to blue violet.

The years roll along. Your color palate expands into the glorious world of paint samples. Oh goodness - an unexpected mishap in a prominent spot on a kitchen wall. No need to paint the entire wall. A dab of paint will take care of the blemished area. Buttercream is how you refer to your wall color. In the paint store you are bedazzled by the vast assortments of paint samples on little cards. The person tending the paint department explains that "your buttercream" is not exactly "our buttercream." You now face the prospect that it will be easier to paint the entire kitchen than match your beloved buttercream. Maybe white this time or maybe not. White is not just white any longer.

Some claim the buzz among decorators that blue is the most popular color. Ah, calming blue. Smiling at blue skies, thinking about the "bluebirds of happiness" as they flock to the backyard feeder. Picture relaxing in a self-hypnotic state on the beach watching the blue ocean and listening to the waves. Isn't blue all about accentuating the positive? But wait ... there is a darker shade of blue. What about sometimes "feeling blue," singing the "blues" or experiencing the "baby blues"?

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Who doesn't love red? A dozen red roses is love in bloom, so the florists tell us. Red hearts and love go hand in hand. Turn it around, and red means trouble. Stop signs are red for a reason. You know the red-faced temper tantrum. Bulls might be colorblind; however, rodeo clowns wave red flags to distract a charging bull when a bull rider takes a tumble. Perhaps that is how the saying "seeing a red flag" has worked its way into our vocabularies. It is a heads up for potential scams. Red flags flying at the beach warn swimmers of dangerous rip currents.

Here comes the bride, strolling down the aisle wearing an exquisite white gown. In her lovely bejeweled dress she is a symbol of grace and purity. White represents goodness and pristine beauty, unless you are sitting with a sick child in an hygienically white doctor's office. There you wait for the good doctor clad in the traditional sterile white coat to come through the door. It has been said that the first indoor bathrooms were white so the homemaker could be sure she could eliminate any germs. Now bathroom products containing bleach are legion. Most in this brigade of germ killers will remove color as well as germs and will eat holes if accidentally splashed on fabric shower curtains.

Here's a point to ponder. Aren't families somewhat like colors? Each person has an up side and a down side. Both kids and parents keep way too much inside. Internal tensions build, and here comes an outburst. Some days it is difficult to know if or when the smiling one will turn into a little pit viper.

One family's method of keeping the door of communication open is by numbers. This can be daily or weekly. Everyone has an opportunity to personally rate the day, week or activity by the numbers. On a scale of 1 to 10 my day was, the test was, soccer practice, etc. Ten means great. No need to explain a one ... definitely a dumpster day.

You could, however, replace numbers with three colors of the family's choosing. Give the colors values. For discussion, suppose everyone agreed red was 10, a good day. Maybe a good grade, a funny story or something special happened. A white day is a 5 day. Nothing great but nothing horrible. Blue is 1. This was not a good day. Perhaps the blue person may choose to say what went wrong. Sometimes it is enough to admit it was as Judith Viorst's hard-luck kid, Alexander, would say, " a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, and I think I will move to Australia."

Consider this variation of the traditional campfire talking stick as an option to eliminate the chirping crickets and to encourage supper table talk without being the grand inquisitor. To keep it fresh maybe this could be a weekly activity. Pick a night and be consistent. Place a small vase with three flowers, red, white and blue, in a convenient place. You may have to go first, but eventually the family will get the idea. Someone with something to say selects a specific colored flower and places it on the table before dinner. Then after the blessing, if one is said, and before eating, the person who placed the flower shares the news. The conversation continues, and the flower can be passed around the table during dinner for others to share or not. So what happens if a white flower appears? Someone had a do-nothing, boring day.

Don't you wish when your kids says it was a boring day that you knew what is behind that comment? The white flower is a window of opportunity for the explanation of just how boring it was.

Don't limit this to flowers. The family can choose three like objects that appeal - crayons, toy cars, blocks. Give each one the good, boring, and bad day value. Eventually as this catches on, watch for an amazing outcome. The events of the day or week now have a conversational escape hatch that opens without the use of the parental crowbar.



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