“Listen instead of lecture. Communicate instead of command. Relate instead of retaliate. Be flexible instead of being fixated on getting your own way. Seek to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. In short, behave the way you want your children to learn to behave.” - L.R. Knost, author of the parenting book, Gentle parenting: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline.
I heard my family member say to me, “What is this Sujata, I asked you so many times to make sure the electricity bill is paid and yet you forgot. Now they have come to cut the electricity and I have to go running to pay the bill.”
Okay, I accept that I may have not done the task on time. I may have promised to do so and kept postponing it. I know that the other person is upset and angry due to my unconcerned attitude.
But with this lecture, I would only feel blamed and shamed and turn a deaf ear and act like I didn’t care. I surely do not feel like listening or cooperating when spoken to like this.
Children also feel the same!
Have you noticed that as parents, most of the time, we are the ones talking? We instruct, we lecture, we preach, or we yell! That is why children don’t want to listen or talk to us.
So, how can we put across our request to the child without nagging and keeping it short? How to convey to the child what needs to be done without drowning them in our words?
In the book, ‘How to talk so kids will listen, and listen so kids will talk’, authors Faber and Mazlish, show how writing a note is a wonderful way to communicate respectfully with the child.
Children are often happy to receive notes, which are also a quick and easy way to get their attention. For those who can read, leave notes as reminders. For example, a note on the pillow saying, “Brushing time!”, one on the bathroom mirror, “Cap on toothpaste after use.”
Humorous notes always lighten the mood!One on the study table, “Check 123, is the school bag packed.”, or one on the bed, “Dear Sanju, I’m wet and cold. Please put me out to dry. Thank you, your towel.” It encourages children to respond jovially and take responsibility for what they do.
Sometimes, we do become irritated when things are not going well. It is good to be authentic with our feelings. We can express our feelings respectfully with a note firmly saying, “I am upset that the stationary which was borrowed has not been returned to my desk. Dad.” The child will know what to do next.
For little ones who cannot read, notes with drawings are sure to delight them. One participant in our workshop shared that her 3 year old daughter used to forget to close the cap of the water bottle so she drew it and stuck the note onto her bag so she would remember. And sometimes children who cannot read find it fun to even have a written note left for them. They run to the parent and ask, “What does it say?”
Teenagers too enjoy receiving notes. It is a pleasant way to convey, “Hi Abhi! We would love to chat up with you over dinner at 8pm. Love, pa and ma.” A reply arrives! “Yes, I will be there on time.” Sending a message to teenagers on the mobile or on mail are other ways to communicate while keeping up with the times!
Notes need not be only reminders about things the child needs to do. A child will be pleased to find a love note in his lunch-box that says, “Would you like to go for an ice-cream treat after I pick you up? I love you!”. It can also be a thank you, a sorry or an encouragement note.
Writing these notes helps children engage with us as we gain their cooperation and is a beautiful way to keep the connection.
Author: Sujata Dewaji is a certified parent Educator with Parenting Matters, an organisation that promotes parents to build deeper connections within families.