I am not a big reader on parenting books, as mostly our family set up works, common sense solves issues and talking with friends usually helps to realize that some issues are just normal even though I may get grey hair thinking about it.
But I reached a point where it was all getting too much and my approaches did not seem to work. The whole atmosphere in the house just overwhelmed me at times. In our school’s library I stumbled over a book called “How to talk so kids will listen & listen so kids will talk” – and that was just it – the not listening that drove me crazy. Fair enough we had the big move few months ago and I am sleep deprived but that can’t be the only excuse for what was going on. The title of the book made me wonder how and if I could change to get my kids attention – can’t always blame the kids, can you?
Right form the start the book got my attention. As with everything, not all was relevant to us due to how we do communicate and I do not agree to all approaches, yet I found a lot of helpful thoughts and hints that fit to me and us as a family and I was hooked.
I won’t go into too many details as everybody has their own way to communicate and different points to focus on but I try to point out some of the key areas I found helpful and if they speak to you you may want to find a copy of that book and get reading. It is not a time waster!
The book concentrates on how a child perceives the way the parent communicates, may it be the choice of words, situation or behavior. It puts the adult into the child’s perspective and how we would feel if somebody talks, reacts towards us in that way. But for me there lies as well one of the ‘dangers’ of today’s society – sometimes kids just have to listen. We may want to treat them as equals but they aren’t, they are kids and we are the adult! Both have their part to fulfill.
Nevertheless we may want to reflect on how we talk and the choice of words we use when we do speak to children to understand how that way of communicating may make them feel, e.g blaming, accusing, threatening, lecturing, moralizing, comparing etc. We don’t do it on purpose but some words just achieve the opposite of what we intended to achieve. And rightly so if we realize how it would make us feel if we were spoken to in such a way!
Kids, especially as they get older want to be listened to, not being undermined. But a wrong word may cause them to close down or freak out. Adults often ask “why” yet a child may not be able to verbalized the ‘why’. And instead of being able to explain something they get stressed and upset as they simply can’t describe why they feel how they feel. Another one is “I understand” – if we are honest we may understand as we have life experience and all but for a child we cannot understand and they may say “no you don’t you were not there” and stomp off instead of talk. Empathy may be better in some situation, especially if we try to get them to open up. Giving choices or compromise even if we do not see them in that moment are helpful, too. Just because the room should be tidied up right now in our opinion there may be something else that is important to the child right then so a choice of when the room should be tied can be given. The child feels involved to be able to make a choice; we still achieve what we set out to achieve but hopefully without the argument factor. Other points approached in the book are to state the expectations, to show how to make amendments, to take action, to make them see consequences, don’t put a tag on your child’s behavior, help them to stay positive.
Over the passed weeks I tried to observe my behavior, choice of words and approach in certain situations. And I am happy to say that I do see changes. Where a fight and shouting may have happened before the situation can now be solved calmer, more controlled, conversations are at times more open and all that leads to a more relaxed household.
Did that happen over night, does it always work? No to both. It takes time from my side to step back and reflect and change my behavoir. It takes time in that moment to rephrase and try to make a real conversation or to really explain instead of just giving instructions. It works better on some and worse on other days – stress and being sleep deprived are situations when the level of acceptance is lower anyway. Both sides need to be calm enough. “You can’t problem solve when you are boiling”.
If any of this speaks to you, I do recommend to read and get ideas with ‘How to talk so kids will listen & listen so kids will talk’ by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. They do as well have a teenager book, but we are not quite there yet – though, behavior wise sometimes I think we, are but age wise not!
I hope this recommendation will help to get some ease back into your house, too!
Have a lovely stress free day,