How to speak to your child so that they will listen to your needs

I think we can all agree that parenting was much easier before we had kids and it was much easier to have an opinion about parenting before we became parents.

This is one of the most difficult jobs in the world and at the same time one of the most rewarding. We are responsible for the well-being of another person; a little person that we need to care for and protect, make sure they are clothed, fed, with a roof over their heads and have a warm place to sleep. We need to take care of them when they are sick and offer them love, patience, guidance and understanding.

Then there’s also their emotional well-being, which is important too…

We need to ensure that they are emotionally intelligent, can understand themselves emotionally and express their feelings so that they can ultimately self-regulate. This is not an easy task, especially when there are no instruction manuals…or are there?

My first child, she is now 8, was five months old when I attended a parenting course that literally changed my life. I was raised by an authoritarian mother and thought that I would probably do the same, as this is all I knew. After attending this programme, my relationships as a whole changed; with my daughter, husband and even those around me. I had found the instruction manual to parenting & effective communication with my family. And because of the impact of this program, I obtained my international qualifications to become an instructor and facilitator in P.E.T (Parent Effectiveness Training)

When we become parents, something very unfortunate happens. We feel we are no longer just merely ‘people’ but ‘role models’ and this implies that we are supposed to be better than the people we were before, but we ARE still those people…

We had our own lives, friends, hobbies and things we liked to do, things we did just for us.

As parents, we often sacrifice ourselves, our identities, our own personal wants and needs, as our children and their needs now come first.

Of course, our kids are important to us and of course there are things that we need to do for them, but this should not be at the cost of ourselves. So, how do we express our needs to our kids in a way that they will actually listen to us? We want to do this in a way that their self-esteem is still preserved. If we go in guns blazing, they will put their defences up and start defending themselves and they will not hear what you are saying.

Now there are a few factors to consider before expressing your needs to your child…

  • You should be relatively calm at the time, if you are raging with anger it will be difficult to control what you say
  • Your child should also be in a calm emotional state, if they are emotionally flooded at the time then they cannot ‘hear’ what you are saying
  • Your comments need to be free of judgment, labeling & criticism, otherwise, your child feels under attack and will start fighting back
  • You need to be clear and to the point
  • Your comment should have three parts…
  1. What is the behaviour that is causing you the problem, this should be a non-blameful description
  2. How does this make you feel
  3. What are the effects on you , this should be concrete effects

Here is an example:

Parent 1:

“You always leave a mess behind you! I am not your maid, can you not be more considerate and clean up after yourself!”

Parent 2:

“I feel frustrated when the kitchen counter is left in a mess because now I have to spend time cleaning it up before I can start supper.”

In the first scenario, the child hears that they are the problem…they are bad.

This is a typical example of using YOU messages. They say little about what the parent’s needs are and focus more on attacking the child.

So what happens… the child defends themselves & fights back saying: ‘No I don’t!!!’

In the second scenario, the child hears how their behavior, (The messy kitchen counter), is causing a problem for their parent. This causes the child to view the situation from the parent’s perspective. These are called I-messages.

Ultimately, we don’t want our kids to change their behaviour because we say so, then they don’t learn anything.

We want them to realize the effects on those around them so that they can become considerate and aware of the needs of others.

We also want them to figure out, by themselves, how to fix the situation or prevent future situations from occurring.

If we are constantly offering solutions…’clean the kitchen counter now!’ then we do not give our children the opportunity to take responsibility for their actions and find their own solutions.

Now, this type of communication can be used with everyone; from your kids, your husband, your friends or work colleges, these are basic communication skills…these are LIFE SKILLS!

When using these skills with your children, they inevitably start learning how to communicate in a different and more effective way.

Changing our parenting habits and styles is never easy, but if it’s truly in the best interest of our family, it will always be well worth it.

If any of this sounds like it might change your life too…GUESS WHAT!

There is a morning workshop on 3 March and the full course starts on 12 March 2018

You can just pop me an email, I hope to see you there!

We have qualified instructors in the following areas, should you be interested in attending one of these events:

  • Johannesburg – Midrand, Pretoria, Sandton & Randburg
  • Durban – Central
  • Cape Town – Blouberg Stand & Stellenbosch

Contact Solvei for more information.

Contributed by Solvei Fagas from P.E.T (Parent and Educational Training)
Tel: 082  375 0693


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