Can your children really talk to you? When I was growing up, my Mom told us we could say anything to her, as long as we said it respectfully. Another parent we heard of uses this method: “I told my daughter that anytime that she needs to talk to me about something and is concerned that I might get angry, that she should tell me ‘I need to talk with you and I don’t want you to get upset.’ This provides her with a comfort level to know that I will listen to her without blowing up or yelling at her. It alerts me to the fact that she has something important to tell me and that I need to listen and reflect on the matter so that I can give her support and guidance.
The goal, of course, is to let our children know that they don’t have to be afraid to talk to us, and that we are willing to listen to them calmly. This also means that we don’t jump in right away with advice or solutions. Listen first, let your child know you have heard them, and then, and only then move onto giving feedback.
Before you get into a heated discussion with your child, you need to clearly identify the problem.
So, sit down with your child and try to pinpoint the exact issue. While you’re doing this, use the drive-through communication method. Family expert Gary Smalley says it works the same way a drive-through window works.
1. Get a “Speaker Item.”
This can be anything from a pencil to a TV remote. The person speaking holds the item. When they are finished, they give the item to the other person. Only the person with the item is allowed to speak.
2. One person speaks at a time in a relatively short statement.
Mom: “Josh, I don’t like the way you’ve been treating your brother while I’m at work.”
3. Then have your child repeat back what you’ve said.
Son: “Ok, so you don’t like the way I’ve been treating Sam while you’re at work.”
By having the listener repeat what’s been stated, you ensure that he heard you. Now, a couple of other important points. Don’t give your opinions or assume you know how the other person is feeling. Just give your side. You want to zero in on just one point at a time. That’s crucial.
So, let’s finish the conversation…
Mom: “That’s right. So, we’re going to make some changes.”
Son: “I hear you. We’re going to make changes.”
Mom: “Right. So let’s talk about those changes.”
From there, mom lays out a point in each statement, with her son repeating back what he’s heard. Finally, her son will get a chance to initiate statements of his own, with mom repeating back his comments.
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