The other day I was listening to Ashton reprimand the twins for something they weren’t supposed to do – he was using such a mean tone of voice! The twins were crying and I told Ashton it makes the twins feel like he doesn’t really like them when he talks to them like that. Then I realized that Ashton got his tone of voice and the words he used from ME.
I started thinking about how many of the phrases I say most often are accusatory and negative and commanding – how does that make my kids feel? I do tell them I love them all the time – but with all the commands and reprimands I throw their way, do all the “I love yous” hold up?
I decided to start writing down some of the phrases I use most often. I quickly came up with a pretty long list of things that I say a LOT! I think most of these things are pretty necessary and decent things to say to kids to help them do what they do need to do. But I think I could adjust the way I say a lot of these things to create a more positive feeling in my communication with my kids – and I really need to add in a lot more positive stuff to balance things out.
Here’s what I realized my kids are hearing from me the most:
“Wash your hands and face.”
“Who forgot to flush this toilet?!”
“Don’t touch that!”
“Stop that right now.”
“OK, I’m counting to 3 and you’d better be here.”
“Jammies, brush teeth, bed – I’ll be right down to tuck you in!”
“Be patient. I only have two hands.”
“If you do it right the first time it’s so much easier for everyone.”
“Did you hear anything I just said?”
“Have you got your lunch? Have you got your backpack?”
“Just a minute.” “Later.” “Not now.” “Leave me alone for a minute, PLEASE!”
“Is it ever OK to hit (push, kick…)your brother? Ever?”
“Does it matter what anyone else was doing? You do NOT do that.”
“Get the dishes done – get the dishes done – get the dishes done – don’t do anything else – don’t think about anything else – just focus on those dishes until they’re done!”
“Get your shoes on and get in the car – quick! We’re late!”
“Nope. We’re NOT doing that. You’re DONE.”
“Who did you think was going to clean up this mess? Clean it up right now.”
“If you ask me one more time, we won’t do it at all.”
“You’re best friends. You do not talk to each other like that.”
“Nope. No more songs. No more talking. I’m done. Go to sleep.”
“That is totally unacceptable.”
“I can’t listen to you when you talk to me while I’m talking to you.”
“Everyone stop – just stop.”
“Get OFF the computer!”
“Toys go downstairs. Toys don’t come upstairs.”
“GO DOWNSTAIRS! (or GO OUTSIDE!) Do we run around and yell upstairs? No wildness upstairs. You can run around and yell but you have to do it downstairs or outside.
“OK guys, this is really NOT working out.”
“No playing rough like that. Even though it seems fun at first, someone ALWAYS gets hurt.”
“What are you supposed to be doing right now?”
“I’m trying to make this so fun but you guys are really ruining it right now.”
Then I tried to think of the positive things my kids hear from me a lot. Sad to say, my list was a lot shorter – and it had some things on it that yes, I do say – but not that often.
“Do you have any idea how much I love you? All the way to Heaven and back.”
“You guys, you’re not listening to me – I told you to stop growing up and you’re getting taller and smarter and cuter every day! Stop it!”
“It’s so fun to hang out with you guys.”
“You guys are the best kids.”
“I’m so lucky I get to be your mom.”
I realized that I really need to step it up on the positive things I say to the kids. I do say nice things to them and want to celebrate every little good thing they do – I’ve found that positive reinforcement works wonders (especially when I positively reinforce one kid within hearing range of another!). Part of my short-list problem is that the positive things I say are often more specific and less repetitive – so they don’t come to mind as readily as the things I need to remind the kids about so much. But the quantity of positive things I say to the kids is definitely not even close to being on par with the not-so-positive stuff. I guess the NEED to say something immediately about things the kids need to do or stop doing is a little more “in my face” than my need to say something about them being extra calm or avoiding a fight or getting something done quickly and well when they’re asked to do it or just telling them about something good that I’ve noticed them doing.
Anyway, my new goal is going to be searching out and pointing out and celebrating every good little thing that the kids do so that I can have a prayer of balancing out the necessary and/or habitual instructions and reprimands with compliments and commendations. And I’m going to be a lot more polite with the instructions and requests I make to the kids so they don’t feel “commanded” all the time – I’m sure that doesn’t feel good to them. I’m always hounding them to say please and thank you – I’d better do it myself more often.
Here are some new phrases I’m going to try to make more commonplace coming from my lips:
“I noticed how you ________. That was great.”
“You’re such a good example to the other kids with how you _____________.”
“I’m so proud of you.”
“I’m so grateful for you. What would I ever do without you?”
“Here, I don’t think I explained that very well. Let me show you how to do it properly.”
“Will you please _____________.”
“Oops – I think you forgot to __________. You were probably just about to do it but I thought I’d better remind you so that we can do that fun thing we were going to do next.”
“Let’s start over with that. I’ll ask you again more nicely and you answer me nicely.”
And I’m going to work on not “setting myself up for failure” so often. I’m always rushing the kids and getting increasingly frustrated as we try to get out the door in large part because I didn’t plan properly and add a little padding of time so that the inevitable glitches could be absorbed into the time schedule. I’m often short with the kids when I’m overtired or stressed out. I need to focus on getting sleep properly when possible and learn to say no to things more so that my mind and schedule don’t get so packed that I’m bound to be tapped out. I need to do a better job of “picking my battles” and let go of things that really don’t matter (The kids probably really won’t stop running their hands along the walls and getting them all grimy. I can remind them forever that there’s no real reason they ever need to touch the walls – but that’s not going to change anything so I should just give up maybe.) And I need to think more about how much I love these amazing kids of mine WHILE I’m talking to them so that the things I need to tell them to do or not do can come out in a more loving way.
So this week, I’m going to step it up on being calm and polite and positive and loving and push off as many commanding or negative comments as I can, replacing them with more positive stuff.
QUESTION: What do you say most often? What would you like to change in the way you communicate with your kids?
CHALLENGE: Try making a list and adding to it over the course of a few days. Try making a list of things you’d like to say more often. Do this with a friend, if you want, and report back to each other in a week to see if you’ve been able to step it up on positive comments.
Image from Suomis/www.flickr.com.