Sometimes it’s in the tone of our voice, sometimes it’s in the timing but most of the time it is how we say and what we say to our kids that can either embroil us in a power struggle or get the cooperation that we need. Communicating effectively with kids is the key to successful parenting. Learning effective communication techniques can make a huge difference.
Here are 3 communication tools that parents can use to help them communicate better with their kids:
- DESCRIBING THE PROBLEM:
Oftentimes when our children misbehave, we resort to accusations in order to stop the behavior. Instead we can just describe the problem:
|INEFFECTIVE/ACCUSING:||DESCRIBE THE PROBLEM:|
|“You are being mean when you call your friend ‘mean.’”||“Name calling hurts.”|
|“You are making a huge mess with the glue!”||“Glue gets real messy; we need a towel.”|
|“This room is a pigsty.”||“Guest are coming. This room needs a good cleaning!”|
When we describe the problem, we avoid giving orders. What needs to be done becomes obvious in the context. It is the child’s conclusion, not the adult’s command. According to the psychologist, Haim Ginott, “Self-inferred decisions decrease deference, reduce resistance and invite collaboration.” When you describe the problem it should be noted that “I” statements are used instead of “you” statements. Note the neutral and non-confrontational tone of these statements.
|“I” STATEMENTS||“YOU” STATEMENTS|
|“The paint spilled, we need a paper towel.”||“You spilled the paint.”|
|“The glass broke, we need a broom”||“You broke the glass.”|
When we put “you” into the statement, it turns into an accusation. Accusations put children on the defensive, creating tension and power struggles. When we use “I” statements we are reinforcing that there is a problem that needs to be solved and we have faith that the child is capable of solving it.
- GIVING CHOICES:
Giving choices is a skill that should be used all the time. This technique gives control to the child without compromising the adult’s authority. It is a win/win situation. Implicit in the choice is the fact that the child needs to fulfill the task, but gets to choose how. Giving choices diffuses conflict and lets children assert their independence in a healthy way.
|INSTEAD OF COMMANDS AND ACCUSATIONS:||GIVE CHOICES:|
|“You can’t play with playdoh now!”||“Do you want to play Memory or your puzzle?”|
|“Sit down!”||“The little or big chair is available.”|
|“Start your worksheet.”||“Will the red or blue pencil help you get started?”|
(Faber & Mazlish, 1999)
It exercises their brains by making them think and solve problems. It is extremely effective with independent, defiant children and toddlers.
Cline and Fay (1990) recommend giving choices to children all the time. It should become second nature to professionals when working with children. This will help clinicians build up a “control bank account.” The child feels in control most of the time and won’t feel the need to fight for control.
- “WE” STATEMENTS
“We” statements are a subtle but effective way to build a feeling of family camaraderie and teamwork. It is also helpful in teaching children that they too are responsible for their home.
Instead of: “Clean your room!” try this, “How should we get started on cleaning this room?
Instead of: “You need to peel the carrots for the salad!” try this, “We need to get dinner started. How should we split up the jobs?”
Instead of: “You have to come and help me with the errands today!” try this, “We have lots of errands that need to get done. How do you think we should work out the schedule?”
Simple and effective communication techniques like these can take our parenting to a new level in 2017!