Language is a key element when attempting to change how kids meet our expectations. Consequently, how we say things determines how children respond. Always remember that children are apt to make a good thing better rather than to make a bad thing good. Steering them in a positive direction through language gives them a clearer vision of what they need to do. We so often become reactive to our children and attempt correction after bad behavior has occurred. With a communication style called re-recording we can stop behavior mishaps before they even starts. Let us show you how!
Children sometimes talk to you with sharp admonishments like Shut up! Leave me alone! I hate you! What they are trying to convey is that they feel powerless and need to fight for their rights to express their feelings and, as cornered dogs (parents), our knee-jerk reaction is to bite. Evaluate the differences in the below communication styles and decide if they could work for you .
- "Becky, normally you don’t use that tone of voice with me so if you need me to listen, I’ll stop what I’m doing so you can feel good that I hear you."
- "Jeff usually you try really hard to be a great big brother. This is so not you. Is there something we can do to help you turn this around and be the person we both know you are?"
By saying to children that they don’t normally or usually behave a certain way, you are suggesting to them that they are not being their charming beautiful selves and then by acknowledging and validating the children’s feelings, they can talk and behave in a more positive manner. Some adults may view this as molly coddling but when you think about your own motivations for doing the right thing, you might see that you too respond better when people give you the benefit of the doubt. We can either build children or repair adults. The key to successful and effective communication and behavior modification is to ask three questions:
- Does what you’re doing feel good to the child?
- Does it feel good to you?
- Is it working?
If even one out of three doesn’t work, you’re not effective. You might win through submission, but your children are not internalizing right from wrong. In fact, they have externalized the lesson by blaming you for being mean—causing a cognitive shift that teaches them to deflect responsibility for their behavior and not to own it themselves.