Effective Communication to Help Kids Thrive at Home
You ever had one of those days with your kids? You know the ones....where you started out with great intentions and by the end of the day you're questioning why you don't drink more?
It can be difficult to be a parent. I have two children, eight and nine year old boys, and one of them is adopted and has only been in my home for three years, so he comes with a whole host of his own issues stemming from his previous foster homes and biological home. Oftentimes I feel like I'm arguing with a couple of velociraptors on crack and neither one of them are listening to my words. Yesterday I found myself making the cardinal mistake and not communicating effectively with my kids. Sometimes, even as a therapist, we mess up, and we forget. So let me tell you about my day, and what I should have done. Cleaning Their Room
So the day started with me telling my two kids to clean their room. Now my oldest has been around the block with me and he knows exactly what, "Clean your room" means, but my youngest still struggles with this concept. He's never had to clean before, and he came from an environment where cleaning wasn't a priority. So he has no general concept of what cleaning his room actually means. So, when I tell him to clean his room, his typical response is a tantrum, or telling me he doesn't know how. Which brings me to my first tip for parenting in this situation. Tip #1: Give Specific Directions
Kids, particularly little kids, don't have the knowledge or the experience base to understand broad concepts like "clean your room." So instead, it's important to help walk them through what that actually means. Instead of saying, "Clean your room," instead give small directives. "Pick up your blocks." "Please put your clothes in the hamper." "Put your stuffed animals on your bed." Kids are helpful by nature and they want to plea
se you but if they don't know what you're asking or how to do it, it can quickly cause a tantrum.
From there, we spent the next couple of hours outside, where my children engaged in activities like killing each other with Nerf guns to spraying the dog with water from the hose. They were bickering quite a bit, and in hindsight that should have been my cue they were tired/overstimulated, but I was busy washing my car and totally missed their cues. Next thing I know there are full-fledge WWE in my yard while simulta
neously screaming at each other, "Dude, quit being a jerk dude!" And this leads me to my next parenting tip.
Tip #2: Recognize When They Need a Break
Kids oftentimes don't have the internal clock to tell them when it's time to stop. They keep playing and going but emotionally/physically/mentally they've had enough. When my kids start to bicker with each other this is typically the cue that they are tired and ready for a break from the activity and from each other. In thes
e situations, we do what we call separation time. Each of them will do a quiet activity by themselves, which provides them an opportunity to sit down/lay down, slow down, and shut down their minds for a few minutes. It provides a great reset and they can go back to their day.
After dinner it was time to settle in for the night.
Now, my kids know the rules; Brush teeth, take a bath/shower, put pajamas on, settle in for bed. But when I told my eight-year-old-ball-of-fire to go brush his teeth he proceeded to throw the dog toy, pretend he's Harry Potter, cast a spell on his brother, and basically do everything in his power to avoid getting ready for bed. This leads me to parenting tip number 3. Tip #3: Provide Choices While Still Accomplishing the
Kids thrive with choices. They get told what to do and how to do it all of the time and they are given very little autonomy. But kids actually do better when they are given choices. So instead of saying, "Go brush your teeth", offer your child options. "Do you want to brush your teeth before or after your bath?" "Do you want your dinosaur pajamas or dog pajamas?" Providing choices makes them feel they have some control over what's happening and it makes them more likely to comply. In closing, effective communication skills aren't just for adults. We need to use the same skills and effort in communicating with our children. Oftentimes as adults, we talk AROUND our kids, not TO our kids. Kids sense when they aren't being included, or heard, or understood, and it can cause them to feel uninspired, unheard, and in some cases, overwhelmed and unloved. Put the time and energy into communicating effectively with your kids. If you find yourself struggling with parenting or communicating with your children, feel free to reach out for a free consult.