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10 Practical Communication Tips For Parents

10 Practical Communication Tips For Parents

Read this amazing quote from renowned family therapist Virginia Satir about communication: “Whatever you say to me comes out of you and has very little to do with me.” With that perspective in mind, how are we, as parents, supposed to make the messages we send to our children relevant, meaningful, and work toward their best interest?

What nearly every parent wants is to establish and nurture a deep relationship with their offspring that extends generationally into what becomes their legacy. What follows are 10 legacy-building guidelines that you can begin to incorporate into your thinking right now.

1. People (including children!) respond to their experience, not to reality.

When you want to get an idea across to your child, you need to get behind their eyes and see the world the way they do. Craft a message that at first fits within then expands their perception of reality. It’s like bitter medicine: most of us would never benefit from it if the pharmacist did not hide it in a better-tasting delivery system.

Regarding training children, I had a colleague whose son was still sucking his thumb at the age of three. The parents had bribed, coerced, punished, lectured and ignored. What they had not done was change the meaning of the thumb sucking inside the mind of this child. I told them to actually encourage the lad to suck his thumb, while reminding him that since he was still three he could suck it all he wanted and did not have to stop until he was a “big boy.” Being viewed as a big boy was something the child wanted. In less than a week the thumb sucking stopped.

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2. Behind every behavior there is a positive intention.

This is a challenging idea because it is easy to see negative motivations and we are often rewarded for doing so. Yet people do things because they want something. You could argue that some behavior is driven to avoid something unpleasant, but if you look deeper, what motivates that action is still something positive. For example, most people would agree that yelling at someone is not a positive behavior. However, what makes someone yell is positive at the deepest levels. Before you read on, think back to a time when you yelled at someone. Ask yourself, “What was I wanting to get for myself through my yelling?” Common answers are: to be heard, to be safe, to get my point across, and so on. All of those, by the way, are positive intentions.

Before assigning a negative reason for a behavior that your son or daughter is doing, drill down into the positive causes by asking yourself, “What are they really wanting through doing that?” “What is my child trying to get for themselves?” Once you can see that your child is running around the house creating havoc because he’s exhausted and is fighting sleep, you have a choice. Are you going to respond to the surface behavior (the chaos he’s creating), or the deeper need (he needs to go to bed)?

3. Anything can be accomplished when the task is broken down into small enough chunks. 

You’ve heard the quote, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Everyone has a threshold for how much information they can take in at one time. The range can vary according to age, health, culture, learning context, and even mental state. As you get to know your child, discover their threshold for learning in various contexts and match that as you are teaching them.

I was tutoring a teenager struggling with memorizing information. The one area he was most motivated to work on was phone numbers (especially those connected to the opposite sex). I noticed that he regularly coupled pieces of information together. It seemed that chunks of two made sense to him. But when it came to phone numbers, the normal chunking of three, then three more numbers, followed by a cluster of four really threw him off. After the initial three numbers, he just quit listening. So I taught him to hear a phone number and then to visualize it in strings of two; like magic he remembered the phone number the first time he heard it!

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4. There is no such thing as failure, only feedback.

Making mistakes is part of growing up. It’s when immaturity around failure develops that communication breaks down between parent and child. The idea that failure is feedback is sharpened by Dr. Charles Garfield of NASA, “You need a continuing stream of feedback whenever you are really stretching. The Apollo moon flight was off-course 90 percent of the time between here and the moon, but Apollo had feedback mechanisms that allowed it to make rapid course corrections.” As a parent, your job is not to hound the kid about his or her mistakes. Rather, you need to be a trusted “feedback mechanism” that helps and guides the youngster back on track.

5. Every behavior is useful in some context.

This is another tip that people can easily prove wrong. You could rightly argue that murder is an awful behavior. However, an important difference between murder and self-preservation is the reason behind the action itself. To illustrate, when my nephew was two, he started biting people. So I began teaching him that teeth are great, that we really need our mouths, and that biting was certainly OK, but it needed to be done in the right way. I told him, “You can bite steak or a popsicle, but you cannot bite people.” I then reinforced the learning with something tasty to bite and very soon he traded biting his family and friends for snacking on healthy foods and the occasional treat. The child’s job is to try out anything and everything in order to learn. The parents’ job is to put all of that behavior in useful contexts that will help the child become successful.

6. The messenger never rests until the message is delivered.

“Mommy. MOMMY! Mommy mommy mommy!” Heard that before? Kids are relentless and unabashed communicators. If you do not quickly get the message they are sending you they will throw themselves on the floor, scream as they hurl themselves in circles, and give a tantrum that would make Linda Blair blush. The truth is, what they wanted to communicate began as a non-verbal message well before you needed to call an exorcist. Parents are distracted because we are tired, stressed, and overburdened with responsibilities. Yet, if we start to pay attention to our children’s needs early on, we will save ourselves the embarrassment that often results because we are so busy tuning our children out, and we will get deeper rapport with our children because they will learn to trust that we have their best interests in mind.

7. The meaning of your communication is the response you get.

Most parents assume that because their mouths are moving in the general direction of their kids that communication has taken place. In simple terms, yes, you have spoken to your child, but watch their response. Is that the behavior or attitude you wanted? Don’t measure what you say to your child against what you mean. Measure it against how they receive it and what they do with it.

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If you have scolded your child for making a poor grade by telling them, “What kind of grade is this? You can do better!” and deep down you really meant for them to hear how much you care about their future, but they say back to you, “You’re never happy with what I do,” then take their response as the meaning of your communication; not what you meant. Your concern for their future success was lost in the way you scolded them. You cannot undo that or pretend that you didn’t say it, but you can apologize for communicating the wrong message and try again.

8. Choice is better than no choice.

No one really enjoys being told what to do and children want to have some independence and influence over their lives. The difficulty is that the younger a person is the less life experience they have had through which to gain wisdom about making choices. Yet the successful parent will build on their child’s desire for choice instead of making the child feel small by their limited world view.

Bedtime and chores are great examples of how to begin building choice into your expectations. Instead of sending your little one to bed crying and protesting, ask them, “Would you like to walk or fly to bed?” Or, “Do you want to brush your teeth before I read you a story, or after?” “The dishes need to be done. Would you like to listen to music or watch a show on the iPad while you do them?” In each case you are giving the illusion of choice, which softens the perception that a child is being made to do something against their will.

9. People always make the best choice available to them at the time.

This is not to say that our kids’ choices are great all the time. It means that when the time comes for a child to choose behavior X over behavior Y, the child’s choice will reflect their perception of their resources in that situation. In other words, if they would have known better, they would have chosen better. If a child is struggling with making good choices in a given context, it is an indication that they need some strategies to access their resources better, faster, and more reliably.

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10. If what you are doing isn’t working, do anything else.

You want your twelve-year-old to clean his room. You think you have sufficiently motivated him to “clean up” because you’ve yelled the command from your easy chair. In the past you have even lectured him about the benefits of keeping a clean room. Yet he struggles to do it. You have to tell him each and every time to clean the room. What is happening? Your son has not internalized the value of keeping his room clean and you are repeating a program that is meaningless in his experience (see tip #1). Instead of repeating this useless loop, put your thinking cap on and try another approach. Do not give up on your ability to be creative, nor on your child’s natural desire to make you proud.

 

For sure our kids will carry on the best and the worst of who we are for generations to come. How you communicate with them now will have lasting effects that will become your legacy. Incorporate these ten tips to strengthen your relationships with them and become the best guide for them that you possibly can.

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Published on November 14, 2018

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.[1]

It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

Symptoms of Fatigue

Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

  • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
  • mental blocks
  • lack of motivation
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • muscle weakness
  • slowed reflexes and responses
  • impaired decision-making and judgement
  • moodiness, such as irritability
  • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
  • reduced immune system function
  • blurry vision
  • short-term memory problems
  • poor concentration
  • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

Causes of Fatigue

The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

  • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
  • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
  • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
  • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

Medical Causes of Fatigue

If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

Anemia

Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.[2]

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

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This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.[3]

Diabetes

Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.[4]

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.[5]

Thyroid disease

An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.[6]

Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Too much sleep 
  • Alcohol and drugs 
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
  • Poor diet 

Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

  • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
  • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
  • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
  • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

Psychological Causes of Fatigue

Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

  • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
  • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
  • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

1. Tell The Truth

Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

  • How you feel
  • What time of day it is
  • What may have contributed to your fatigue
  • How your mind and body reacts

This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

2. Reduce Your Commitments

When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

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If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

4. Express More Gratitude

Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

5. Focus On Yourself

Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

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Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

7. Take a Power Nap

When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

8. Take More Exercise

The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

9. Get More Quality Sleep

To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

10. Improve Your Diet

Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

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To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

11. Manage Your Stress Levels

Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

12. Get Hydrated

Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

The Bottom Line

These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue
[2]NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired
[3]Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome
[4]Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired
[5]Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea
[6]Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown

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