Back talking. Fighting for the last word. Monosyllabic answers. Colorful *@&!?% word choice. Who knew parent-child communication could be so erratic? Or, at times, so stinkin’ frustrating? If dialoging with your child has become messy or even stagnant, it may be time to do a bit of myth busting to clean up the faulty thinking jamming lines of communication. Here are 5 Common Communication Myths debunked:
1. MYTH: Parents should have all the answers.
FACT: When kids are looking for advice or help, they will typically ask. But if parents dispense advice to unwilling ears, kids are bound to reject it or resent it. As The Adult (with decades of experience and wisdom), we often put undue pressure on ourselves to have The Answer to all of our kids’ problems. But if we resist the temptation to rescue or repair, we allow our kids the opportunity to grow and experience the thrill of finding their own solutions.
2. MYTH: Questions are the best dialogue starters.
FACT: Craving to connect with our kids after a long day at school, we typically ask, “How was your day, Honey?” And, very often, a mumbled, monosyllabic “Good,” is all we get in response. For a more meaningful ride home, try sparking a conversation with a warm greeting or statement like, “I really missed you today.” OR “From the looks of those purple fingers, I bet you had art class today.” OR “You’ll never guess what happened to ME today…”
3. MYTH: When a parent says, “No,” children interpret it as, “No.”
FACT: I’m convinced that deep within the cerebral cortex of 98% of children is a faulty connection which makes his brain think “REALLY???” when his ears hear, “NO.” To stop a child from doing something we don’t want them to do, I believe we have two basic choices: repeat the word NO until you are blue in the face, or use a YES alternative. Examples: “Yes, you may go to your friend’s house to play as soon as you unload the dishwasher.” OR “The kitchen is not for yelling. Feel free to yell in your room with the door closed or out in the garage.”
4. MYTH: If your child is using colorfully inappropriate language, he’s destined for a life of debauchery.
FACT: Young kids are experimenters by nature. When they are introduced to a new word (on TV or from potty-mouthed classmates, for instance), they are wired to try it on for size. Often they don’t even know what the word means. They just know it must be pretty cool because it gets a huge reaction from listeners. The next time Junior experiments with a new word, try to keep your cool and calmly ask if he knows what the word means and who he heard it from. Then, in age-appropriate terms, define it and explain why it is not to escape from his precious little mouth again. (It also helps to brainstorm an appropriate alternative to use in place of the new word).
5. MYTH: Kids and adults speak the same language.
FACT: Sure, if you speak English, chances are your children do too. But that does not mean that you share the same style of communication with your kids, and that difference can create frustrating misunderstandings. To enhance understanding, find out if your child is a visual, kinesthetic or auditory learner. If she is visual, try hand signals, notes and visual cues to get your message across. If she is kinesthetic, you may need to gently touch her shoulder or use hand signals when you talk to her. And if she is auditory but still does not seem to get what you’re verbally asking, try to simplify your instruction. She may simply be overwhelmed by the amount of information she is trying to process at once.
If talking with your child or teen has become more difficult in recent weeks, check to see if a Communication Myth is getting in the way. Sometimes just a slight adjustment in approach can re-establish harmony and get healthy conversation flowing once again.