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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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Four Things To Notice As You Learn How To Detect Lies Four Ways To Be More Confident And Get What You Want 10 Practical Communication Tips For Parents The Reasons Why You Feel It’s Difficult To Forgive Three Things You Can Do Instead Of Overreacting

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

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Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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