Six Quick Changes that Can Help Parents and Caregivers Feel More Effective
1. Lose the judgments. We live in an incredibly judgmental society. Tabloids, politics, water cooler talk….it is all wrought with judgment and it is often pretty negative. Our kids listen to how we talk about others….when we judge, our children will learn to judge. When we speak with compassion and understanding about someone, that will be their lesson. Even little things like driving can be great places to practice catching our judgments. Changing “That jerk doesn’t care about anyone else on the road” to “They must be having a really difficult day and be very distracted to drive like that…..I hope their day improves” creates room for understanding and empathy.
2. Be curious! When we are stressed, we become more certain and less curious. It can be a nice practice to ask at least one question in a conversation with our kids about their point of view. Often, that one question can elicit a more substantial interaction and help them become curious about other peoples’ points of view as well.
3. Say YES! There are days that parents dole out 500 ‘no’s’ for every ‘yes’. It is a tough ratio and can lead to less communication, frustration for everyone and tuning out a parent’s words. Research shows that people respond best to 3 affirmations to every 1 criticism. Finding family discussions to yell out an enthusiastic ‘YES’ can elicit communication and effectiveness.
4. Have some fun that isn’t too far in the future. Having things that to look forward to can provide built in incentives for our children and opportunities for positive parent-child interactions and/or conversations.Depending on the child’s age, proactive planning for a play date for the youngins to sending our adolescent off to dinner with his friends shows that we, as parents, are paying attention to what our kids find important.It also allows parents to be consistent by planning something fun and then following through.
5. Show gratitude and increase feedback. It is really easy as a parent to spend a lot of time on things that are not going well and give a quick pat on the back if something goes well. Spending an equal or greater amount of time giving feedback when things go well can help make those difficult conversations more manageable. If a child has been struggling a lot, make a goal to pay attention and give positive feedback at least 7 times during the day. Having trouble finding 7 things to provide positive feedback? Look harder!
6. Look for that kernel of truth (no matter how small it may be) in my child’s point of view. We all know our children pretty well and all that knowledge can be dangerous when it comes to validating our children. It becomes easy to make assumptions and think we know where a conversation is going and, often (because we are so smart!), we are right. However, taking that step back and putting ourselves in our child’s shoes and finding the truth in what they are saying can make the difference between an effective conversation and one that ends in tension.