Updated: Feb 26
Although a common bird, the garden sparrow has a lot to teach us about communication and our relationships with others, and carries important lessons for you to teach your children.
A sparrow has a beautiful singing voice, which carries meaning to other birds with clarity and confidence. He knows when to use his voice and when to be quiet. The sparrow is also able to see things from several perspectives – the ground, a tree or the sky, which is a great skill to use when problem solving.
The Power of the Voice
A sparrow has a beautiful voice which it uses clearly and confidently. Even though it is a very small bird, which can easily hide among its fellow birds, its voice is meant to be heard.
Everyone has a voice and something to share that is meant to be heard, but sadly many of us, adults and children are afraid to use it.
As a child I was teased a lot, which knocked my confidence significantly. Subsequently, as a teenager, I was very quiet and afraid to speak up, for fear of being teased, or upsetting someone. This carried with me into young adulthood, where not many people got to know the real me. Despite now recording live-streams and YouTube videos, I still have to overcome the deep-rooted fear of speaking up and being visible to people.
However, I have something to share, which I know will benefit many adults and children. If I was to let my fear of speaking out stop me, I wouldn’t be able to serve others in a way that helps them. The truth is, everyone has something to share, so being confident enough to use your voice to communicate is so important to future success, whether that is for success in your career e.g. interviews, sales and marketing; to communicate and share your knowledge to support others; or to build meaningful relationships, in which you are able to clearly communicate your wants and needs.
Two key lessons emerge here:
1: Words have power. They can make or break people. As a parent, you may have to correct a behaviour, but be sure to criticize the behaviour, not the child e.g. ‘that was a foolish decision’, rather than ‘you’re a fool for doing that.’ Teach your children to always be kind to others and help them to understand the impact that words can have. There is a famous experiment that was conducted by Dr Masuro Emoto, who wanted to test the power of words. He filled three jars with rice and covered them with water, then tested the impact of words on them. To one jar of rice he said ‘I love you’ every day, to another he said ‘you’re stupid’ and he completely ignored another jar. The results spoke for themselves, as the jar that he said ‘I love you’ to, started to ferment and let off a nice aroma, whilst the jar that he said ‘you’re stupid’ to turned black and the jar that was ignored started to rot. This would be a great experiment to replicate with your children.
2: Teach your child that their words are valued. By actively listening to a child and encouraging them to speak for themselves where possible, e.g. at the shops, doctors etc they will learn that their words are important and valuable. As a result they will become much more confident in expressing themselves and communicating their wants and needs to others.
For more tips around building confidence with this see my 'Help Your Kids Find Their Tiger Power' blog.
Communication With Others
Sparrows, like many other birds, use their voices to communicate with other birds. Have you ever noticed that birds can be very vocal as you are walking nearby and making a bit of noise. If you stop and become quiet, they often become quieter too. This is because, among other reasons, they use their voices to warn other birds about predators.
Birds also use their voices to find food, attract mates or stay in contact with other members of their flock. According to Filip Tkaczyk, their voices can carry for a mile or more in the right conditions.
Effective communication doesn’t just involve speaking, it also involves actively listening and engaging with what people are telling you. It involves being able to look at things from different perspectives, so that you can truly understand where others are coming from and it requires an element of empathy to understand how others might be feeling.
By actively listening, you are also able to read the subtle unspoken queues that people are giving through their body language and facial expressions. Sadly, technology is becoming a barrier to this, as more and more people are dividing their attention between listening and looking at their mobile phones, or tablets etc, so a great deal of information is missed.
Likewise, if you have a hundred thoughts going on in your head at the same time that you are trying to have a conversation, you are more likely to misunderstand what someone is saying, which can cause a great deal of problems and dissatisfaction with others. This can affect relationships and create problems in the workplace. The most effective leaders and managers are those who make the time to actively listen.
This is such an important skill to teach your children, but you have to lead by example.
Tips to help you do this include:
Stop what you are doing and look at your children and others when they are speaking.
Show that you are listening by trying to summarize some of their key points.
Acknowledge their feelings and emotions, before sharing your own thoughts and feelings about something.
Teach and encourage your children to do the same in their interactions.
Being able to communicate effectively and form positive relationships is a crucial skill when it comes to working collaboratively with others. Read 'The Rat's Route To Success' to learn about the benefits of this.
Perspective - Taking
Like other birds, sparrows have a distinct advantage of being able to see things from different perspectives – high up from a tree, down on the floor or in a bush and an aerial view from the sky. From each place they can look at the same scene, but see it so differently, because their own experience shapes their outlook.
Being able to see things from another perspective is a very powerful tool in resolving problems and building relationships. Not everybody’s experiences are the same, so it stands to reason that their outlooks will differ too. A parent has different knowledge and experience to their child, no matter what their age, so probably make decisions that the child doesn’t understand because they don’t have the same knowledge and hindsight. The same is true in the workplace and even in your own relationships with others (see also 'Standing Tall With The Giraffe')
By learning to understand and see things from different perspectives, children can learn to resolve conflict more easily and work more cooperatively with others. This will lead to improved relationships with others and increased confidence.
You can help your children to develop this by role playing different characters, by discussing the perspectives of different characters in films and books and by showing them that you understand their perspective, but helping them to see yours.
Learning the lessons that a sparrow brings about effective communication can have such a huge impact on the lives of yourself and your children. By having the confidence to speak up and share your gifts, you will find more joy in what you do. By actively listening to others and understanding their perspectives you will benefit from improved relationships with others, better career prospects and a deeper understanding of life. All great tools to teach your child from a young age.
Building effective relationships with others is one of the key contributors to emotional well-being. If you would like to learn more I have a free e-book, which you can download here.
Dr Emoto, M - The Rice Experiment https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWkGw-0sFhM. Accessed 21.02.21.
Tkaczyk, F. Bird Communication – An Introduction. https://www.wildernesscollege.com/bird-communication.html Alderleaf Wilderness College. Accessed 21.02.21