How to have a healthy communication life with your kids
First — Listen to them
Getting your kids to listen can be one of the most daunting tasks of parenting. It seems that a common way we react to our kids NOT listening is to raise our voices louder and louder until we get a reaction.
But listening doesn't only mean to get their attention, right? It means that you want them to soak up what you're saying and go the distance. Follow through with what you asked of them without talking back or being disrespectful.
So what if we could figure out how to get them to respond better, instead of picking up the pieces and dealing with bad behavior after they didn't want to listen in the first place? There is a way.
Let me give you an example.
If I ask my son to get ready for school in the morning, it sometimes takes me saying it five times before he really follows through. Then I end up yelling, he gets frustrated, I get angry...it doesn't end well.
But I've noticed a correlation to him not listening, to how I'm communicating.
Usually, when it takes him five times of hearing a command to following through, it is when I'm doing something else and wasn't intentional with my question. I know this to be especially true for boys. Sometimes, you have to get them to look at you in the eyes, repeat it back, and watch them begin the task.
You see, kids are not adults. They do not function as adults, and they don't quite understand the consequences of not following through as adults do — as they mature, their understanding of this will get better.
Let me first say, be patient with your kids. I'm continually reminding myself of the reasons my son doesn't listen. And sometimes the only reason is that he's eight years old. Children are much slower paced than adults — we could actually learn something there.
So before you go thinking that these little tips will cure your child of all listening issues, then I would caution you.
These tips are more so to help YOU communicate better so your kids will listen.
Along with patience (which I know none of us are perfect at) comes a profound responsibility to understand who your kids are.
Understanding who your kids are has a lot more to do with listening to them, then them listening to you. So make sure you're listening to their hearts, listening to understand, and not to respond — this will lay the foundation of healthy communication in your family.
Also, ask yourself these questions.
Can they handle what you're about to ask them? Have you taught them how to do it? Are they distracted when you ask them?
I remember one time asking my son to "deep clean" his room, assuming he knew what this meant.
I found shoeboxes full of trash stacked neatly under his bed, and all his clean clothes in his dirty hamper.
Sure, he was being a little lazy, but I also didn't instruct him as to what I meant or showed him how to do it.
The more communication on our part as parents, the better.
Kids need to understand the "why" more often than not.
Here are five things you can do to help you communicate, and your kids listen.
1 . Make sure your kids aren't distracted when you are talking to them.
This could mean a simple, "Hey, can you look at me, so I know you're listening?" before you begin your demand.
2 Don't ask them to do things that are higher than their maturity level.
Back to kids aren't adults.
Let's say you ask your 5yo to go clean his room after his show is over. Thirty minuted pass, and they turn off the show and then start playing his legos.
You go up to him in frustration and say that you had asked him to clean his room. He shows disappointment, and says, "Oh yeah. But can I first finish playing legos." He then continues to try and avoid cleaning his room. You get frustrated, and before you know it, he's in time out for talking back, and everything is amiss.
There is a way to avoid this situation.
It starts when you asked him to clean his room.
A. He probably wasn't paying attention because he was watching something. B. Most of the time, 5yo's don't have to capacity to remember specific tasks after a certain amount of time (especially boys) and C. Cleaning his room is not the most exciting thing to do so he's already selectively listening to you.
So what should you do differently? Well, if it were possible, have his reward for cleaning his room be watching a show. But if that wasn't a viable solution then...
Give him a 5-minute warning to help him transition from one event to the next.
After he turns off the show, get down to his level, make sure he's looking you in the eyes, and say.
"Hey bud, I would love it if you would clean up your room. If you can do that without complaining, then I would appreciate it. How about after you clean your room, we play a game together?"
I guarantee you his response will be different. He has something to look forward to. He is respected by your question and how you asked it, AND you are setting him up for success.
Now, let's say you have a 14 yo who is very capable of remember to clean his room after his show is over.
At that point, if he doesn't follow through, a consequence is needed since his maturity level is higher and he should know better.
Do you see what I mean by age matters?
3. Talk respectfully and not in a demeaning way
Just to get it out there, when things get stressful, and we are tired, we suck at communicating in love and not frustration. This article isn't meant to make you feel like a failure as a parent.
We all suck at communication sometimes.
So take this as a helpful suggestion, not a judgment.
It's easy in the heat of the moment to bark commands at your kids. I do it ALL the time. But I realize that when I do that, it affects the way they respond.
If I am kind and respectful in asking my child to do something, then his response is more respectful. If I am short and shrill will my demand, his response is disrespectful, and it takes us a while to get to his doing the task. He ends up in trouble, and I end up angry.
So I've realized that to save us the trouble, we do it right from the get-go, and doing it right starts with me.
4. Make sure your child is in the right state of mind when you communicate with them
Our older son, who is eight, and the two of us parents have to sometimes sit down for some deep convo's. This usually happens when he has been having a hard time listening, obeying, or being disrespectful.
Sometimes it's just because we want to make sure he's okay because he seems a bit off.
Sometimes it's just because we want to show him we care about his feelings and emotions.
Whatever the conversation you have with your child, whether that's addressing behavior problems or asking them how they feel emotionally, make sure you are attentive to the state of mind they are in.
If my son is showing anger and frustration, I know it's probably not best to continue our conversation about his misbehavior. He needs a moment to cool down. I need a moment to cool down.
So I usually say, "why don't you take a minute in your room to figure out why you're feeling the way you're feeling, and then we can talk about it."
This helps him to calm down and also to think about why he feels the way he feels.
My MY LIFE JOURNALS are also a great activity to give them when they feel frustrated. It helps them navigate their feelings, and turn their minds to something positive, like what they're grateful for.
You know your kids more than anyone, so before you get into it, make sure they're in the right headspace, and also that YOU are as well.
Nothing good comes of you communicating out of anger.
5. Give them rewards when they follow through on something you asked them to do AND on something you didn't ask them to do.
The most glorious moments in parenting are sometimes as simple as your child doing something you ask them to do every day, but they don't usually do it.
For me, this was when my son started putting his backpack in the right spot after school.
Instead of throwing it in the middle of the living room, I showed him the place it belongs.
It took him a while to get this down, and sometimes he still forgets. But he knows that if he doesn't put his backpack in the right spot, he's lost 15 min of video game time from the weekend.
But when he DOES it, without me asking him, I reward him.
Make sure you are balancing consequences with rewards. A child who is continually being given consequences with no reward will VERY quickly feel defeated.
I'm not saying you should never give consequences. Just make sure you are also rewarding their good choices and follow through so they will correlate something positive to do it again next time.
We don't ask our son to get good grades. We encourage him to do his homework and do the best he can with our help.
So if he gets a bad grade, we don't discipline him because we are actively involved and know he's doing his best. If he gets a good grade, we reward him with an ice cream date, or some special memory together as a family.
Expecting perfection from your kids can quickly intervene in your family life, and cause a lot of devastation and emotional damage to your child.
Check out these other helpful articles on that matter.