If you had enough of the yelling and the fighting, and you want to know how to talk to kids so they would listen, this article is for you.
Communication is the subtle dance at the heart of every relationship. It can resemble a heavy metal club or a ballroom waltz, the choice is yours. If you’ll take a step forward when I take my step backward, the music will play. If we’ll take our steps forward at the same time, the drums will roll. Cooperation is key to connection, but it works the other way around, too.
Here’s Something You Can Relate to
Imagine coming home from work to find a completely messed up house; dirty dishes in the sink, toys all over the place and bread crumbs lead your way to your children’s’ rooms where they comfortably mind their own business. As if the house isn’t their business too! Right?!
Good morning 🙂 Anger is a wake-up call for needs unmet, stated Marshall Rosenberg. And if you think about it, he was very much right.
Just a second before you let anger in, stop. There is a way to reverse this situation.
Sway from Judgment
Pure observation allows us to look at the situation as is, without interpretation, without evaluation. As soon as we start thinking about a situation, we are already a few steps away from the situation itself and into the dark corners of our brains, where everything can happen.
When we remove these unnecessary layers, we can better identify and distill all participants’ needs and feelings and manage the situation in a way that will strengthen our connection, rather than completely break it apart. When we talk to our kids from that place of empathy, kids do listen.
The Video Camera Trick
So, instead of a story that will sound something like “these little bastards, they couldn’t care less about me! Everything I do for them and they can’t even collect their f****** toys? I work double shifts and they can’t eat in the damn kitchen?! Well, I’ll show them”!
Try something different, something that I call “the video camera view” – tell yourself nothing but what a video camera can record. It would be something like: “they came back from school. They needed to eat. They needed to vent. I need rest. I need their cooperation”.
Wow. did you notice the change?
The video camera won’t be able to record your kids not giving a damn about you (because it is not true), or the assumed fact they don’t care about the house (because that’s not true either). The only thing you’ll see through that imaginary screen are people trying to get their needs met.
They came back from school. They needed to eat. They needed to vent. You need rest. You need their cooperation. That’s it.
Doesn’t it already sound much more like a sentence that’s easy to listen to, easy for kids to hear and comprehend?
We’re so used to thinking in terms of other people’s responsibility for our needs, that many of us are not able to fathom that we, yes – we, are the only ones responsible for our needs. We can aim for cooperation stemming from true empathy to our needs and the true desire to make us feel better, but how do we do that? We yell, demand and sometimes even punish to discipline.
Take this upon yourself: do you really want to cooperate with someone who yells at you, calls you names, and tells you that you really don’t care about them? You’d probably tell yourself that if this is the way they communicate, and if they already think you don’t give a damn, you might as well continue with whatever it was that you were doing, since doing something else won’t really change a thing.
This is how most of us communicate with children. Is the lack of cooperation a surprise? Read on to learn how to talk to kids so they would listen.
How to Switch from Demands to Requests
As soon as we’re brave enough to understand that having a clean house is our need, rather than theirs, we’re free to make a decision – what are we going to do to get this need of ours met? We can either do it ourselves now, and rest later. We can rest now, and do it later (this will require us to take further responsibility of our needs and decide which need is currently higher prioritized), and – we can try and connect, and turn the meeting of our needs into a mutual goal, for the sake of connection. But first, of course, we will need to connect.
How to Connect When We’re Upset?
Remember the virtual video camera we imagined, that could only film what really happened, free from interpretation and evaluation? Let’s take that one step further and fathom the following: no one, ever, does anything against anyone else. All people, always, do everything they do for themselves – to have their needs met. As soon as we remove the blame, the imagined responsibility others have to do with our own needs, we’re finally free to see that the kids were just being kids. And that we are tired. From that clean point of distilled needs – we can take the next step and make the request.
Requests are Hearts Talking, through Silenced Brains
When we fulfill demands, we do it out of fear (if I won’t do this I won’t be able to go out), guilt (if I don’t do this, they might think that…) or shame (I can’t tell her that I don’t want to), we perceive these as coercion, and there’s no better way of breaking a connection than forcing one into doing something they don’t internally want to do.
When we request, we aim for that request to be gladly filled, out of love and connection, we aim for our words to touch the hearts of whom ever we are talking to, so that their brains won’t resists. Here’s how:
K.I.S.S – Keep it Short and Simple
“I need your cooperation/ I need help”
To you, this may mean a lot. To them, it might not mean a thing. Since cooperation is subjective and each person has his levels of cooperation, you might hear something like “but I cooperate with you all the time!” and as you can imagine, your reply would be argumentative and all of you are left with unmet needs and broken connections.
Describe their needs and your feelings towards their needs, and state your needs. It would be something like this:
“Guys, I’m super tired and would like to get some rest. I see you had some fun here while I was at work, I’m happy you ate and had a chance to vent, that’s great. Could you please fix the house before I wake up? Love you Guys :)”
You respect their needs, you give them the opportunity to amend without anger, fear, guilt, or shame. You don’t trigger their counter-will, you take care of your own needs and keep the connection. What can be better than this?
When we are connected – making our subject of connection happy is a core need that we will always strive to meet.
Each person has countless needs, we need to know ourselves and our loved ones, to really know them, for us to be able to step up from strategies and shift to needs, to break from demands and shift to requests. Be consistent and with some time – you will see the change. This is a guarantee.
(Breaking) The Habit
We’re so used to blaming, that this huge leap in communication might look hard to take. And it is. Because change takes time. Yet it is so beneficial that I haven’t yet met anyone who regretted venturing on this journey to positive parenting. Learning how to talk so that kids would listen is nothing less but a life changing practice. If you feel you might use some help, still have a few vacancies for January family coaching and I would love to help you out.
Another thing you can do is join my 10-week mindful parenting challenge, it’s free of charge and provides with the core concepts of needs and feelings.
You can also join my parenting support group on Facebook right here. See how many options you have? 🙂
Hope to meet you soon!