When talking to your children, do you ever feel like you’re talking to a wall? The less they listen, the more the urge to shout builds up inside of you. We don’t ever want to go there, but it works as a last resort when nothing else seems to do the trick.
But yelling isn’t productive. In fact, one study suggests that yelling may be as damaging as corporal punishment. So, when talking, bribing, and yelling aren’t working, it may be time to try something a little less conventional. Here are 4 unique tips on how to communicate with your children.
1) Make sure you have their attention
Before you start a conversation or ask your kids to do anything, make sure you have their undivided attention. This may mean walking into the room where your child is to make a request instead of calling it out from the other room. When you’re in the same room, you can see whether you have your child’s attention instead of guessing. Make eye contact, even if that means asking your son or daughter to put down a book or pause a video game.
To make the most of your connection, talk first about what your child is doing. Ask about her homework or the music she’s listening to. Once you’ve started the conversation, you can bring up your topic.
Interestingly, this is probably how you’d approach another adult. But we get so used to giving our kids instructions that we sometimes forget to engage them first.
This is most important for teens who are beginning to exert some independence. When you begin conversations with your child’s attention, they’re less likely to end in yelling.
2) Keep your message clear
In an attempt to keep things light, some parents may cloud their message. For example, if you’re telling your child to brush their teeth and go to bed, you probably don’t have to list everything they need to do in-between. And they definitely don’t need if-then scenarios.
Let them know what you want her to do in clear, actionable terms.
If your child is very young, you may also see results by adding an element of fun. If your kid has to put her pajamas on, you may say something like, “I can’t wait to see which ones you choose!” Move quickly to the fun part to get them looking forward to the task instead of initiating a power struggle.
3) Remain confident and focused
After you’ve asked one of your kids to put their shoes on for the 37th time, it’s difficult to keep your cool. But it’s the only way you’re going to get your kids’ attention. Yelling may get them to listen for the moment, but it’ll cause a rift in your relationship that may be irreparable if the behavior continues.
And in a worst-case scenario, yelling can create a power struggle between the parent and the child. When things are heating up, remind yourself to keep your cool. Do whatever it takes to exude confidence without raising your voice. If you have to step away for a moment, do so. When you come back, practice calm and assertive instruction.
4) Offer empathy whenever possible
Empathy can be more difficult in some situations than others, but it’s essential. Whenever your child expresses any emotion, acknowledge his feelings and relate. This doesn’t mean giving up on your conversation goals, but it will help you move on to accomplishing them.
As adults, we have trouble managing our emotions, so we can’t expect our kids to be experts. If your child is angry, crying, or throwing a fit, these are signs that they’re struggling. Talk about what happened to trigger those feelings and how your child can productively work through them.
If anger gets in the way of having a productive conversation, it’s okay to walk away. Tell your child you will discuss this again soon. It’s better to walk away before you lose your cool.
To many of us, yelling is a visceral reaction triggered by a mix of our emotions and our circumstances. But it’s about as bad for you as it is for your children. Try to find healthy ways to manage your stress and anger. And practice these unconventional ways to communicate with your child. They can be challenging, but with practice, you’ll have better conversations. And you may even enjoy an improved relationship with your children.
Author’s Bio: Trevor McDonald is a freelance content writer who has a passion for writing. He’s written a variety of education, travel, health, and lifestyle articles for many different companies and is currently writing for Sober Nation. In his free time, you can find him running with his dog, playing his guitar or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.