Helping all children become happy learners
How do you talk to your child about their behaviour?
The way that we talk to children about their behaviour can determine how they respond. Everything about how, what and when we say something will influence the success of our interactions with the child. Being flexible, adaptive and responsive to the context and the emotional state of the child is the ideal that we must strive for. Nobody gets it right all the time so there is little to be achieved in over worrying about situations that don't go well. However, there are a number of strategies that can help.
Try to stay calm and use an unstressed voice. It is important to model calmness to help your child emotionally regulate. If you do need to raise your voice then try to bring it down as quickly as you can.
Simplify language when your child is upset. Everyone's ability to process language declines when emotionally stressed. Thus when giving instructions to children and adolescents keep the sentences short and simple and this will help communicate the message.
Avoid confronting your child with ultimatums and threats. If you threaten a sanction you must always be totally willing and able to enforce it now. Better to leave any punishment or sanction unknown For example:
'There will be a consequence for this behaviour.'
Try to find avoid confronting any excuses offered by your child. Instead you try to acknowledge their excuse but and focus on gaining their compliance with the desired behaviour. For example:
'OK, you didn't hear me tell you to turn off the computer but I want you to do it now.'
use 'i' Statements
Use 'I statements' to describe how you feel about the context. Using 'I' makes it more difficult for the child to contradict you.
'I am disappointed and upset that you hit your brother.'
Do not Don't
Describe the behaviour you want not what you don't want. Instead of 'Don't shout' it is better to say:
'Use a quiet voice, thank you.'
Give controlled Choice
When asking your child to do something try to give them a choice. This helps them feel in control and thereby be more willing to accept your instruction. The choices are controlled so that either option still achieves your aim. For example:
'Do you want me to help you with your homework now or do you want to get on with it on your own?'
Cue attention using name
Lots of instructions 'fall on deaf ears'. What this means is that the child is not listening to you. But the main reason for this is often that they are not aware that listening is required. By calling them by their name you gain their attention. Then give your instruction. Pause after saying your child's name to ensure attention.
'Tyler, (pause) I want you to finish that game now, thanks.'
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