As we prepare to send kids back to school, I thought it only appropriate to focus this article on the fundamentals of building connection.

Mr. Warda, my grade 9 geography teacher may not have been my favorite, but there is one thing I will always remember from his class.

“Repetition is the key to learning.”

I can still hear his rhythmical voice saying, “Repetition is the key to learning,” over and over again. I found it amusing then and didn’t even pay much attention.

Now, that simple six words phrase is forever stuck in my head. I also have to admit – I believe the underlying truth in his statement.

So why this short story? Because there is an important practice here that can help support our goals of connecting.

It’s that connectors do the difficult work of keeping it simple!

I always envisioned teaching my kids important lessons about life and having them take to heart the things I wish someone taught me. However, at first I struggled to connect. Trying to ‘teach’ my kids wasn’t anything like I expected.

As I refined my ability to communicate, this practice of keeping it simple did wonders. Here are the ABCs and 123s from my learning along with John Maxwell’s guidance for ways to keep it simple. Regardless of circumstances, they can help you connect with the people that matter most.

A – AWARENESS: Recognize the knowledge, maturity, or awareness of your wife/kids on any topic, and try to make your message at their level

I often struggled to apply this rule. I think it was because I was so focused on my message and what I wanted to get across. It also takes a lot of work to communicate on someone else’s level. As I shifted my mindset to focus more on others, and figured out what words, tone of voice, or phrases engaged my family better, I saw immediate progress.

B – BE BRIEF: Quickly make your points / don’t lose them with long winded explanations or over complicated details

Another one of my challenges was taking too long to get to my point. The attention spans in my house are short, so I had to shorten things. It also bothered me that when I did get their attention I couldn’t keep it for long. I experimented and found that stories, funny voices, or silly faces were great for the younger kids. Compassion and empathy were most important for my spouse.

C – CONSISTENCY: Repeat simple messages over and over and over again

Mr. Warda would be thrilled. This is exactly what he did and something I’ve used a lot as my kids grew. John Maxwell is a master at this – if you’ve read any of his books, you’d see this practice in full effect. Examples of short, simple messages we’ve created for our family include:

  • Keep trying. Do your best. Forget the rest.
  • Be quick, but don’t rush.
  • How many hugs do you need a day? (Answer is 12, and if my kids don’t get it right they get tickled. It’s become a constant game/fun way to engage anytime)

1. Check for understanding to make sure your message was clear/understood.

Disagreements always happened in our house because of misunderstood messages. The simple practice of checking for understanding alleviated 90% of them!

2. When possible – choose to say less, or nothing at all.

As a coach, the power of silence and giving a person space (emotional and psychological) for his or her own thoughts and feelings is a powerful practice. I learned to apply it at home to see the same results.

3. If ever in doubt, follow John’s “3 S” strategy:

  • Keep it Simple.
  • Say it Slowly.
  • Have a Smile.

I’ve learned that it’s really difficult work to make things simple yet understandable, but have seen the powerful results when I do. Mr. Warda’s example is proof the ABCs and 123s will help you connect more in your most important relationships.

Remember dad, you were made for this.

About The Author – Drew Soleyn

I’m the Director of Dad Central Ontario, Founder of Connected Dads, and a Career Coach at the Queen's Smith School of Business. As an ICF certified coach and John Maxwell Team Coach, Trainer & Speaker, I help struggling dads show up at their best for the people who matter most.

Ways to connect: