KISS–Keep It Short & Simple
I had worked with Joe and his family for several months. During those months, I had watched the same scenario repeat itself over and over. Every time Joe did something, his mother lectured. It didn’t matter if he told his mother a lie or asked for help with a problem, she would respond the same way…with a lecture. Joe always responded the same way, too. As soon as she pointed her finger in his direction and said, “Joseph, you know…,” he tuned out. His eyes glazed over and he stared into space with a blank expression on his face. I know Joe’s mother had good intentions. She wanted Joe to learn from his mistakes. She wanted to share her wisdom. When he had a problem, she wanted to offer an instant solution. Unfortunately, lecturing did not accomplish any of her goals. Instead, Joe felt like she never listened. He felt disrespected and unheard. After a while, he simply tuned her out and quit listening.
I don’t know about you, but I get the same urge as Joe’s mother. I want to offer a wise solution, a quick answer to my child’s problem, or a quick and effective response to my child’s misbehavior. I hear myself beginning to lecture and see my child’s eyes glaze over. There has to be another way, a more effective way to get the point across. In fact, there is a better way. Here are three more effective ways to respond to your children’s request for help or misbehavior that needs correction.
· Ask questions. If your children ask you to help them solve some problem, ask questions. Ask them to explain what they know. Ask them where they get stuck. Ask them if there are any other similar problems they have already completed. Sometimes they will figure the problem out as they explain it to you. If not, you might begin to ask “What if” questions. “What if you tried this?” or “what if you tried that?” When they misbehave, you might ask them, “Is that the way a young man/lady behaves?” or “Is that the behavior we expect in our home?” Doing so encourages them to slow down, think, and problem solve with you.
· Allow them to experience the “consequences of their actions.” Most actions have a natural consequence. Some actions have enjoyable consequences, some have negative consequences. Either way, let your child enjoy the nice consequences of positive behavior and learn from the negative consequences of inappropriate behavior. If they waited until the last minute to do their homework and now struggle to understand the problem, let them struggle with that discomfort. Perhaps they will start earlier next time. If they consistently get up late for school, escort them into the building late. Inform the principal that your child is late due to not getting out of bed on time and explain you understand there will be consequences. Let your children see you support those consequences, the natural result of breaking reasonable limits. Yes, it is difficult to watch our children suffer consequences. However, by allowing them to suffer smaller consequences today, we teach them to avoid the harsher consequences of major misbehavior in the future.
· When you do have to give more direct answers and suggestions, remember that children, and many stressed out teens, are concrete in their thinking. They cannot follow the abstract reasoning or rambling emotion making up a lecture. They need simple, short and sweet, statements. Throwing too much information at children will simply overwhelm them. They may get frustrated or angry as they see your emotion but still cannot understand the content of your speech. So, slow it down. Offer one piece of information at a time. Make sure they understand that information before you add more to it. You may even find it helpful to write down each point…or use something object to represent each point. This will allow your child to build their understanding of the problem and the solution, brick by brick.
Our lectures are really knee-jerk reactions to our fear. We do not want our children to suffer. We want what is best for them; and, when that seems threatened, we jump into a lecture. However, by using the three ideas above, you will find that you accomplish your goal more quickly and effectively. You will enjoy watching your children grow. And, you will enjoy missing out on the frustration of feeling unheard in the midst of a lecture.