Here, Dr Anna Cohen provides advice to parents on how they can adjust their communication style to support children to listen and learn to cooperate without the battle or tantrum.
There may not be a magical solution to getting your children to listen, but understanding how your child replicates your own behaviour will be the key to gaining their cooperation. Rather than controlling your child’s behaviour think about how you can guide them toward more considerate behaviour through demonstrating model behaviour.
Good communication involves actively listening to what is being said to you, and this goes both ways. Children want their parents to listen. Gaining their corporation will come down to leading by example. Children whose feelings are respected are much more likely to model the same behaviour.
Children are busy beings who have a lot on their mind so something a parent may ask them to do may be considered a low priority on their list. Knowing how to first gain their attention and have them take action on what is asked of them will come from developing a climate. You want to cultivate a climate that encourages children to cooperate from their own sense of ethical action, rather than the need for you as a parent to regulate their behaviour. For the most part your child will know what they are supposed to do, it may just take a gentle reminder to guide them toward it.
Dr Anna Cohen Sydney’s leading Clinical Child Psychologist offers advice to help parents adjust their own behaviour and support children to listen and learn to cooperate.
• Active listening. Children want their parents to listen as much as we want them to. While it is from a good place, parents often talk too much, asking questions and giving advice. However, it can mean that children don’t turn to us when they have something important to say. Taking on a listening role may not come easily, but using empathy to understand their viewpoint will give them time to explore a problem, and often find a solution while also feeling heard. There is no point
shouting instructions from another room, instead go to your child, make eye contact and ask them in person.
- Use ‘I’ statements. Placing yourself into a statement shows your children that you have feelings. ‘I’ statements are an effective tool to express your feelings in an open and positive way that will maintain good feelings between you and your child. If your child understands how you feel, it will decrease the hostility when you want your child to listen to what you are saying.
- Give clear and meaningful choices. Choices give your child the opportunity to take responsibility and feel as though they have a say in what they do, but only on a small scale. This sense of control will mean they are more likely to comply with what you are asking. The effective use of choice requires you to be clear on your expectations of what you need your child to do.
- Stay calm. It is not possible to be in charge as a parent when you are arguing with your child. Engaging in an immature response to your child will mean you cannot act as a positive role model, and will not be able to gain the respect of your child. When we are frustrated or upset, parents often respond by shouting however, this will make your child feel insecure and defensive which tends to lead to an escalation. A child will respond better if parents are rational, respectful and calm.Children will always push the boundaries, get angry and test your emotions, but understanding how your responses affects the overall behaviour of your child will make a great difference in maintaining a peaceful household. Helping your child feel in control of their feelings by actively listening, staying calm and giving clear and meaningful choices will create a positive emotional environment that will help your child feel inclined to do the right thing.
- For more information or professional advice contact Sydney’s leading Child Clinical Psychologist, Dr Anna Cohen at Kids & Co. – www.kidsandco.com.au