Thanks go out to Kirsten Siggins for this excellent article. It captures the essence of the sort of authentic communication that can build strong connections of communication with our children. Here is “Three Habits for Connecting with Your Kids, Even in Conflict.” –JDS
Arguing and kids often feel like they go hand in hand:
That’s so unfair!
You never understand!
I hope you are happy because I am NOT!
Such a flurry of these “conversations” seems loaded with resistance rather than respect. These conversations are exhausting, frustrating and leave everyone feeling drained or annoyed. It is also the time when parents often say and do things without much thought, those knee jerk reactions to make a point or seek completion faster. Almost all conversations begin with good intentions and possibilities, yet, when heated, they turn into arguments that shut communication down and end with judgment, blame, or even shame, all of which lead to conflict and fractured relationships.
We’ll look at three ways, or habits, for connecting more effectively and authentically with our children.
#1: Be Who You Want Your Kids to Be
Research is showing that effective communication is the most important skill we are failing to teach our kids, particularly when conflict is involved. Kids do what parents do, not what parents say, so effective communication begins with you. How you approach each conversation is going to model what competent conversations look and sound like to your child. If you find yourself constantly arguing with your kids, that will become their communication norm, and they will approach each conversation the same way.
The good news is, it isn’t too late to change that impression. Rather than butting heads and talking at each other, pause and take the time to stop what you are doing and actively listen to what your child has to say, what their needs are, and what their experience is like. This doesn’t mean you have to like or even agree with their comments, but it does mean you will have a better understanding of what is going for your child. It also models to your child what listening looks and sounds like so they learn how to actively listen.
#2: Be Curious; Don’t Judge
Parents love to fix and solve everything for their kids. It is faster and easier than having them figure it out themselves. Unfortunately, this approach robs them of learning, skills development and accountability. It sends the message that your way is the “right” theirs is “wrong”. Argument then enters the picture. Arguments begin when the focus is on self, wanting to prove points, be right or share wisdom and expect others to agree with you. It amounts to judging others’ thoughts rather than being open and curious to explore and learn about them.
Argument: a reason or set of reasons given with the aim of persuading others that an action or idea is right or wrong. (Google)
Rather than tell or solve, ask questions to learn what is actually going on for your child and explore possible solutions they propose. This builds confidence and send the message that you believe they are capable of solving their own problem, trusting they can find effective solutions.
Neuroscience has found that, when we enter into a conversation with another and we become curious by asking an open question, dopamine is released, making us feel good as it creates a mind/heart connection. As we continue to ask open questions to better understand and collaborate, we continue to feel good. We have found this happens even when we feel emotional, even “edgy.” Using curiosity, our emotional tension starts to dissipate and wash away, allowing us to be present and connect with our children, rather than disconnect in conflict. With each open question asked, you are able to shift from conflict to connection, making even the most challenging conversations manageable and drama free.
Any time you find yourself entering into an argument, pause and put a “what” or “how” in front of your thought and LISTEN to what your child has to say. This will help you stay curious and connect with your child by better understanding them. It will keep you cool when things heat up AND it will model to your child what confident, competent conversations look and sound like. ###
Kathy Taberner & Kirsten Siggins are a mother/daughter communication consulting team with a focus on curiosity and founders of the Institute Of Curiosity. Their book, The Power Of Curiosity: How To Have Real Conversations That Create Collaboration, Innovation and Understanding (Morgan James 2015), gives parents or leaders (or both) the skills and the method to stay curious and connected in all conversations, even in conflict. [website]