As parents we would like our children to behave well, to learn the right values and to do things that are acceptable. For our home to run like a well-oiled machine, we would want the chores to be completed within a given time frame. And for this to happen, we would surely want cooperation from our children.
Let’s play a game. List down all the things you tell your children to do from morning till night. Here are a few of the many I say!
“Close the tap. You are wasting a lot of water.”
“How slow you are. The bus isn’t going to wait for you forever.”
“You never remember to put off the lights.”
“You are disturbing grandma.”
“What a mess your room is in!”
“You don’t exercise; you just want to play video games.”
If you look at the above sentences, you will find that all of them fall under the category of accusation and blame.
How is my child going to react when he or she hears these accusations that are directed towards them? They would feel upset, angry and uninterested. They may think, “I’m not capable enough. I can’t do it.” OR “I am always blamed. Why should I do it?”
With these emotions spinning in their heads, do you think they’ll want to listen to me? Do you think they’ll want to cooperate with me at all? No way!
What can we do differently?
In their book, ‘How to talk so kids will listen & listen so kids will talk’, the authors Faber and Mazlish, share an effective tool called ‘Give information’, to engage the child’s cooperation instead of statements that are filled with blame and criticism.
Taking the cue, let us change my earlier statements.
“The water in the bucket is overflowing.”
“The bus is waiting.”
“Light is on.”
“The noise is disturbing grandma.”
“Toys are on the floor. They need to be on the shelf.”
“Exercise keeps our body healthy.”
What may be my children’s response now? They would be willing to listen because now I am just describing the problem and leaving the onus of action on them. There is no blame and this makes them feel respected, encouraged and trusted.
When children are given information, they are likely to act on it. “Biscuits get soft when the box is left open.” They usually figure out that the biscuit box must be closed after use and they do the needful. When we let them take the lead instead of constantly instructing them about what to do, they feel confident to take responsibility.
Younger children could be informed, “Wash hands before eating.” Sometimes they may not do it, and then we can gently lead them (not by pulling or pushing them) to the wash basin.
We need to remember that many of the things that adults feel as important are not in their scope of thought and concern!
For older children, combine information with reasons. “Dirty hands have germs that cause diseases.” Give information in short sentences. No one likes to hear a lecture!
Also abstain from giving the same information to a child who knows it already. We can’t tell an 8-year old the same, ““Biscuits get soft when the box is left open.” or to a teenager, “Dirty hands cause diseases.” They are going to get irritated! Instead use light-hearted humour, “Yummy crunchy biscuits in the box!”,and “Look at those germs marching up your arm!”
By becoming aware of the way we communicate and by changing our attitude to being respectful, conflicts between the parent and child can be reduced. Our child, a toddler or a teenager, is open to listening and is willing to engage with us. Consequently, our relationship with them grows healthier and the bond becomes stronger.
Author: Sujata Dewaji is a certified parent educator at Parenting Matters, an organisation which empowers parents to build deeper connections within families.