It is hard being small. Everything is a “no no,” or “not now,” or “maybe later.” It is no wonder our little ones throw themselves on the floor kicking and screaming at the slightest sign of resistance from us.
Communicating in any relationship is paramount to the happiness of the participants but why are modern parents so inapt at communicating with their children? Here are three cornerstone’s I’ve found help in my communication efforts with my own daughter.
It is not a matter of should you its a matter of when and how. Negotiations have to happen in every relationship. How can you teach your child to think of other people and have empathy for their peers, as well as yourself, if there is no negotiation? You are a teacher and have to remember the learning opportunity presented by negotiation. Instead of telling your child, “pick up your clothes NOW” try asking, “do you want to pick up your shirt or your pants? Here is the laundry basket.” Equal effort on your part lends authority in the eyes of your child.
Understanding Emotional Competency
Let me tell you a true story between my daughter and I.
She had a smirk on her face. When I walked up the stairs to her room because water was dripping from the ceiling onto my bed, her pants were off, she was squatting on her cot, and she was peeing with a smirk on her face! I turned around, walked outside and shut the door. I was so angry. I knew that she had done it on purpose. It was NOT an accident. How could a two year old be so spiteful, so calculated so manipulative?!
It was then, in that thought process, that I realized my mistake. I was attributing adult motivations and behaviors to a two year old. She wasn’t even old enough or even capable of understanding the things I was about to punish her for. She was learning and I was teaching. She was learning how I reacted to her. The thing I keep forgetting is that it is my job to teach my daughter how to manage her emotions.
By blowing up at her she only learns the power of anger and not the power to keep it in check.
Are you wondering how I handled that situation? I let it go. I stayed outside for a good twenty minutes and listened to her cry and bang on the door for me to come back inside. When I came in she hugged me tight and told me she was sorry for peeing on my bed. I told her I loved her even when she made me angry. Then, I asked her how she thought she should help fix her mistake and she told me she would clean it up. She got a towel and did her best.
Did her effort change the fact that we lived in a dry cabin with no water besides drinking water? Did it change the fact that I had to go to bed for a week in pee soaked sheets? No, but she never understood those issues in the first place…she is a two year old. What she did learn is that I love her even when she pees on my bed and that I can help her if she lets me. She learned that she is responsible for her actions and even how to towel up pee. Would she have learned that if I just yelled and spanked her or lectured her about the lack of a washing machine? I doubt it. Keep your expectations biased on love. Support rather than perfect. Do this and your child will thrive and excel.
“I AM GRUMPY!!!!! NEVER NEVER NEVER!!!!!!”
“What made you grumpy?”
“You buckled me without permission! You didn’t ask first! I NEVER get to buckle myself.”
“When you are calm I would like to talk to you about how to make you feel better. I am going to shut the car door until you stop screaming because your loud voice hurts my ears, tap on the window when you are calm.”
“Mommy I am calm.”
“Okay then, would you like it if I unbuckled you so you could do it yourself?”
“Okay, there is that better? What do you think you should do next time you want to buckle yourself?”
“Use my nice voice and tell you I always want to buckle myself because I am a princess helper and I buckle car seats all by myself.”
This is a real conversation that I had with my daughter this morning on our way to pee wee sports. I know from experience that if I handled it the way I was inclined to I would of had a screaming match with my three year old while stuck in traffic. Instead, I acknowledge her emotions and wants and accepted them. My daughter in turn felt accepted and was able to calm down and cooperate with me. Again, I had to make the extra effort and teach her how to make a request. Kids do not come knowing how to communicate. Language and vocabulary doesn’t mean comprehension.
Words are power and it is up to us parents to teach our children how to use their powers for good.
Listen to the kiddos and remember, it is hard to be small. Making the extra effort has an upside, it ensures that you are raising kids who are confident and well equipped to communicate with their peers and you. Good communication skills come with a host of benefits including more meaningful relationships, better jobs and an overall greater capacity for happiness.