Speak In A Way The Kids Will Understand
Oftentimes, when we as parents are in a hurry to respond and resolve a situation, we speak in a way that we think is clear, and then place the expectation on the child to perfectly understand our directions and execute them without delay. But what we, as parents, sometimes think is clear communication is actually received and understood differently by the child, and this is where so many conflicts occur.
It’s when the child does not do what we ask them to do, and so we ask again and again and again using the same words over and over again, and possibly increasing our volume each time until the point where we’re completely yelling the same instructions we’ve been saying over and over again, yet the child still doesn’t get it because we are using the same words. We haven’t changed anything.
Remember strategy number one, which is to take responsibility for change. We have to, if we keep on doing the same things over and over and over again and expect things to change; we’re going to drive ourselves nuts. So, we have to speak in a way where the child will understand. We have to change what we’re saying and how we’re saying it so that the child can better understand what we’re saying.
So this conflict can obviously continue on and on and on until everyone in the house is emotional and nothing is getting solved, nothing is getting accomplished whatsoever. So, it’s important that we understand that what we say is not necessarily what the child hears.
Now, at this point the parent has two choices. You can either insist that the child straighten up and start hearing them correctly, or change the words and tone that you’re using when communicating so that your child has a more clear understanding of what’s being asked.
And since it’s not within our control to change another human being, the only logical choice for us as parents is to change the way we talk to our children so that they can better understand what is being asked of them. And the fastest way to figure out what needs to change in your communication is to have empathy for the child.
Empathy is when you put understanding another person’s thoughts and feelings ahead of your own thoughts and feelings. Therefore, understanding what’s going on for them becomes more important than what’s going on for you. So, if you put yourself in their shoes for a moment, what is it that they are thinking or deciding or feeling when they hear you speak? Do they really understand what it is you’re asking them to do?
Another great example of this is a couple of weeks ago when I asked my son to go upstairs and put on his pajamas, he acted as though he couldn’t hear me at all. So I asked again and again and again, yet he got very upset and started crying and just flat out refused to do it.
At first, I didn’t understand why he was reacting. I mean I was just asking him to put on his pajamas, it’s something we do every day and it’s really not that big of a deal. That’s why my first instinct was to argue and insist that he go do it immediately, which of course, doesn’t work. But again, you know, in the situation, you react and things happen, so I had to again take responsibility. I had to stop what I was saying, I had to stop the situation and change my response, and so in a calm voice I asked him why putting on his pajamas made him so upset.
So, when he saw me calm down, he calmed down enough so that he could reply and he explained to me that it was too early to go to bed and he didn’t get to have his milk yet, and he didn’t have time to read his book, and that he didn’t want to go to sleep yet. So, right away I knew what the problem was, and the problem was that when I asked him to put on his pajamas, what he heard was you have to go to bed right now, and that’s not what I was saying at all.
I wasn’t telling him to go to bed. I only wanted him to put on his pajamas, and so again, I needed to alter my communication so that he could better understand what I was asking him to do, and now I’m more careful to explain it more clearly to avoid this conflict in the future. And of course, you’re not going to avoid it every time. You just becoming aware of the situation.
And when this kind of situation comes up, you can tap into this and you can take that moment to stop, keep yourself calm and think of… OK, what is going on for the child, what question could I ask in this situation that would allow me to understand what is going on for my child. Therefore, by asking them that question, hopefully you’re going to get that insight that you need to know what it is in your communication needs to change.
By taking the time to show empathy for the child, it becomes easier to change your communication in a way that the message is properly received and understood by the child. And in a lot of cases these conflicts can be avoided all together. In other words, speak in a way the child will understand, you will have a lot better chance of being understood.