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Family Feature Articles

Most recent posting below. See other articles in the column to the right.

Commune-icate With Your Children

Mom waits eagerly in the car to pick up her pre-teen daughter after school. As Andrea opens the door, Mom asks cheerfully, "How was your day, Honey."
"I hate it when you tell me to 'Have a good day' when I leave in the morning. You jinxed my day!" Andrea lashes out.
Mom retaliates, "Don't give me that attitude. I don't know what's gotten into you but, when we get home, you are going to your room young lady!"

What we have here is a failure to commune-icate! Commune means to experience a deep emotional or spiritual relationship with someone or something. How do we create a deeper emotional experience with our children? Here are a several ways.

1. Set aside physical and mental tasks when you are talking with them. Give your child your FULL attention when you want to commune-icate with your child. Quit peeling the potatoes, folding the clothes or set aside the paper you are reading. Stop thinking about your priority list, your visit from the in-laws or the phone call you have got to make. Be with your child 100 percent.

2. Assume their innocence and not their guilt. How many times has a mess been created or something been missing and you yelled at the child that you thought was guilty only to find out they were innocent? Or your children were fighting and you blamed one child without even hearing their side of the story? Always assume that they are doing the best they can with the skills they have.

3. Discover the need. Instead of being frustrated by their behavior, have compassion for them. Fine-tune your skill at asking yourself or them, "What do you need?" Respond by giving them what they need. However, your job is to eventually help them understand what they need and discover ways to meet their own needs.

4. Don't take things personally. Andrea's explosion at Mom had nothing to do with Mom. She had just had a bad day at school. It is difficult not to retaliate when we take things personally.

5. Be careful of "add-on" phrases. Parents frequently damage children's spirits unknowingly by using negative 'add-on phrases' to their discipline. For example: "I don't know what's gotten into you!" Translation: "I think the devil has gotten inside of you and you are loosing control of yourself." Compared to: "Andrea, this is not like you (assuming this is true). What do you need?" Translation: You are a well-intentioned child. Self-reflect on your needs and see what needs to happen. You are in control of your destiny by the choices you make.
Notice in this example the questions cause the child to self-reflect. This helps the child to ascertain who she is.

6. Allow your child to feel what she feels. Feelings are neither right nor wrong - they just are (however, this doesn't mean you have to agree with her). We shut down communication when we try to take away or deny our child's feelings.

7. Empathize with your child. Take time to hear the feelings behind the words. How might you be feeling if you were your child. Then feed it back to them using phrases like; "It sounds like", or "It looks like…"

Using the above principles, the example may have sounded like this: Mom waits eagerly in the car to pick up her middle-school daughter after school. As Andrea opens the door, Mom asks cheerfully, "How was your day, Honey."
"I hate it when you tell me to 'Have a good day' when I leave in the morning. You jinxed my day!" Andrea lashes out.
Mom asks calmly, "You seem very frustrated. What do you need?"
"I had a really bad day. I am sorry I yelled at you. I guess I just need some quiet time," replies Andrea, calming.
"I understand. Let me know when you want to talk," offers Mom as she strokes Andrea's leg gently.

Mom has created a deeper emotional experience with her daughter. We all long for more meaningful relationships in our lives. It is our job to teach our children how to create them. Parenting classes or a local therapist are great resources to help you create the relationships you want.

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