Send a Clear Message to Your Kids and Teens

talking to kids teens sending a clear messageWhen you want to get a point across to your kids and teens, you have to send a clear message. The clear message, as opposed to one that is full of innuendo and sarcasm, tells your child exactly what you want from them. It does not say one thing and mean another. It shows your child that you understand what they are telling you and this is your answer. It is not something you are saying for the moment and you will change your answer when asked again later. It lets your child know you are confident in what you have to say, giving your child confidence in your message. It is not wishy-washy. Because the clear message is all of these things, your kids and teens will be more willing to do what you ask and listen to what you have to say when you use this parenting skill.

It really is one of the most important skills successful parents learn. Without it, you would not be able to communicate what you need to your children thereby hampering any efforts you are making to fix mistakes in their behavior, to strengthen your family’s bonds or to just communicate. Here are some tips to help you learn this valuable parenting skill:

Use your active listening skills. Communication is a two-way street, when you use your active listening skills you are modeling this behavior for your child while respectfully listening to what they have to say. Therefore, you are teaching them this positive life skill. Remember to stop what you are doing, look at them and repeat what you are hearing them say. If you are instructing them to do a task, have them repeat what they heard to you so you can clarify if necessary.

Use a tone of voice that is respectful and matches the urgency level of the situation. For instance, if you need to raise your voice because your child is going to run across the street and you are some distance from them, by all means do so. Be firm in your tone so that the message “stop” gets across to them. But do not use the same tone of voice if you catch your preschooler with their hand in the cookie jar. Often parents are unaware of how their voice sounds to their child’s ear. Successful parents know that they can talk to their child about this when they aren’t in the middle of the situation. Take some time out at night and be proactive and think through how you spoken to your child on that particular day. Don’t beat yourself up over mistakes you think you may have made, simply strive to do better.

Keep a check on your nonverbal cues. Crossing your arms when listening to your teen will tell them you don’t want to hear what they have to say. Pointing at them when you’re upset at something they’ve done makes them more aware of your finger than of what you’re saying. Nonverbal cues are important, be sure yours are sending the correct message.

When talking about limits, rules and discipline, keep your message fair, firm and simple. To not be pulled into behaviors that may upset you like your child talking back, whining, fighting or having a tantrum. Stay on message and repeat as necessary. If you need to take a timeout in order to avoid a fight, do so. But, do not change your message. Your child will soon understand that the message is clear and firm.

Be precise about what you expect from your child when you are talking to them. If it is something that you are expecting to happen more than once, write down your expectations and allow them to write down their expectations as well. Add details as necessary so that you both understand clearly what you want. This is the start of the parenting contract.

When you are sending a clear message to your child or teenager you need to let them know the reasoning behind what you are saying. You do not need to necessarily explain the reasoning when you are sending the message, but it should be implied. “You are not allowed to smoke.” This sentence has the implied message that your family values no smoking or use of drugs. Your kids and teens will know this by all the discussions that you have as a family about smoking and the use of illicit drugs. Since you had the conversations previously, the implied message is there and it is clear. If your child did not feel it was clear, remind them by repeating the message focusing on your family’s values.

If your preteen or teen tries to pull you into a power struggle over rules or consequences because they’re trying to get their way, it is okay not to explain your reasoning until later time. This is okay because your preteen or teen is not able to handle both at that particular minute. Stand firm in the message you’re giving them. When your teen demands the reason, explain that you will give it when you feel they can be more respectful of your position as their parent. In other words, when they are ready to remember that you have to make the tough decisions as an authority figure in your home.

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