5 Steps to Improve Communication With Your Child

Tired of finding yourself frustrated when your child doesn’t follow through with chores, homework, or showing you the respect a hard-working, loving mom deserves? Do you find yourself yelling, over lecturing or telling your child what to do, instead of tapping into their intrinsic motivators?

Try using these 5 steps to help improve communication and create more peace in your home! We all need it!

Set Goals

First determine what behavior you want to encourage before the telling-and-yelling occurs. The build up of frustration coming from a messy room, laundry that should have been put away, procrastination on homework, or whatever the issue is can make this a challenge. So be sure to plan ahead and have a game plan for how you want to handle these situations before they occur. Identify key concerns and problem-solve together on how these issues can stop, so you can avoid the telling-and-yelling replay!

Keep Cool

We’ve all been there. Even with the best plans, there will be times when everything seems to go wrong! It’s better to not try to have a discussion about it, especially if you’re only going to yell or tell. So, wait! Take a deep breath and cool off.

For example, if your child is talking back, first identify that this is upsetting in a calm tone. Use “I” messages, such as “I felt disrespected when you used that tone with me.” Yes, they need to learn and you want to tell them it’s completely unacceptable and perhaps yell back. But that type of response does not make positive emotional deposits in your bank. And that reaction will not help you get what you want later.

So think about what you both need. By understanding what you both care about, you’re taking rational steps and avoiding an emotional response. Brainstorm solutions. Choose a new way to express that respects your needs while considering theirs as well.

In doing so, you may discover the origin of the conflict is deeper than you expected. It could be that your child is not getting enough sleep, something happened at school they didn’t tell you, or there’s another struggle which led them to snap. This doesn’t mean the behavior was acceptable, but by avoiding the telling-and-yelling scenario, you’ve now discovered the real problem. This creates an opportunity to work towards everyone’s goals. Make a plan around the behavior and post it on the fridge! The next time you feel your blood starting to boil – look at the plan and stick to it.

Make It About Them

I know what you’re thinking, “Seriously, aren’t kids self-centered enough today?” It’s not about combating narcissists; it’s about understanding what makes them tick, what their perspective is and using that to your advantage to help them be their best and ultimately avoid TELLING and YELLING.

For example, let’s say they have a messy room and typically don’t clean up after playing, but they really look-up to Snow White. Ask them why they like Snow White. Ask if they want to have some qualities like her (kindness, tidiness) and then ask, “Do you think Snow White would keep her room like this?”

This is just an example—you can plug in any other character or person your child admires. The point is to find out what will motivate your child to do what you want them to do. Sure, you could say “I’m your parent, and you’ll do it because I said so,” more than a few of our parents certainly did the same when we were growing up. But this won’t create emotional “buy in” with your child.

By understanding what makes them tick and embracing their differences, you’re making an emotional investment. So they will not only want to emulate Snow White but they will also keep their room clean, out of love and respect for you. Understand that each child will have completely different intrinsic motivations. For tweens and teens, for example, these can fluctuate day to day. So if they lash out with a “you don’t understand” comment, respond with “tell me more,” and go back to the Don’t Lose Your Cool Steps.

Build On It

Don’t address everything they’re not doing at once. Make incremental changes. Small steps are better and get better buy in! Set them up for success, not just by finding their internal motivation (like above with Snow White) but also by making sure they’re not overwhelmed. Be sure to write down your plan for the small change and practice it often. Keep re-visiting it until you’ve created a new cycle of discourse.

Be Honest

It’s not about manipulating your kids into good behavior. It’s about having them understand the value of a standard by relating to their standards and what they hold valuable. It’s about investing in a long-term benefit and making those positive emotional bank deposits.

You will still need consequences for certain behavior. For example, “If I find your room with clean laundry stuffed in the closet again, you have to skip the next play date.” However, if you can avoid the threat and instead help define their standard and have them intrinsically motivated to keep it clean, you’ll both save energy. No one likes to be forced to do things—it’s better if you both feel like your playing for the same team!

So next time you feel your blood boiling or your patience wafting, think about how much more effective it could be in the long term to avoid the yelling-and-telling cycle. Creating a new dialogue that leads to improved communication with your child gives them a skill they can use for life. But if you do lose your cool, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s hard being a mom. We’re not robots!

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