How To Communicate To Your Kids Effectively?
"How do we get him to listen to us? That's what I want to know," sighs a frustrated father. "How can we put across our ideas without irritating our child?"
Communication is a two-way street. Both parent and child need to send. But the timing is important. If listening doesn't settle the matter, then talk. But sending a message when a child is in an emotional upheaval simulates someone trying to put up wallpaper in a room full of steam. The paper just won't stick. It is much the same way with feelings. Your child can't hear you when he is churning with emotion.
Yes, parents must teach, persuade, use logic, share reactions and even reassure their children, but the secret is the timing. Get the feelings out first. "Listen today; send tomorrow." And it isn't always necessary to wait a whole day. But wait at least half an hour after the issue has cooled.
Parents must also develop effective methods of communicating their needs to their children, for parents have needs too. Children often annoy, disturb and frustrate us. They can be thoughtless, inconsiderate, destructive, noisy and demanding. They often cause extra work, delay us when we are late, pester us when we are tired, or mess up a clean house.
When a child causes his parent a problem, there are several options to consider. Depending on the situation, a parent might decide to ignore the misbehavior, use active listening, employ natural or arbitrary consequences, or send the child what is called an "I-statement." Most frequently, however, parents take over the situation, crack the whip, and make the child do what they want him to do. Parents who assume this role might be termed commanding officers. They attempt to dictate, threaten or direct their child towards forced obedience. The commanding officer sounds much like this: "I said you'd better get busy, and I do mean now!" "You had better never do that again, or I'll tan your hide!" "Don't you dare speak to me like that ever again!" "You do it now or else!" The commanding officer does not wait for the child to initiate considerate behavior. He hops right in and tells the youngster what he must do.
Perhaps you are thinking, "What else are parents for if it isn't to tell their kids what to do, especially when they are misbehaving and causing the parents difficulties?" Telling children what to do creates "parent deafness." Children resent it when they are told what they must or should do. This kind of communication sets up roadblocks to effective communication and implies that you don't think the child is capable of initiating good behavior on his own. It also insinuates that he is not on a par with you, since you require instant and unquestioned obedience.
Another group of ineffective phrases are put-downs, which accuse, reproach and denounce through negative evaluations: "You're the slowest child I know." Put-downs involve name-calling: "You're such an idiot!" Ridicule and humiliation are also part of put-downs: "How can you be so stupid!" or "Don't you have any brains?" Other put-downs that ought to be banned from the parental lexicon are: "Can't you see I'm busy?" "I've told you a hundred times . . ." "What's the matter with you?" "Are you deaf?" "Where in the world . . ." and "How many times do I have to tell you . . ."
As a long-range result, the child who is repeatedly put down by being called stupid, lazy, spiteful or ignorant comes to picture himself as a no-good. Eventually he will accept that judgment and try to live up to it. When born from early childhood, feelings of worthlessness tend to follow the child into adulthood, often handicapping every aspect of his life.