Problems Communicating With Your Child

Are you suffering from communication problems between your child? Check out this approach to deal with these common parent problems.

Communicating With Your Child | Are you suffering from communication problems between your child? Check out this approach to deal with these common parent problems. | Ben Jackson | @benjacksoncoach

Are you suffering from communication problems between your child? Check out this approach to deal with these common parent problems.

Whether you parent a 2, 3 or 4 year old who doesn’t want to cooperate, our parenting skills are put to the test when he or she doesn’t understand or appreciate our efforts. It may feel as though your child is wilfully making things harder while you attempt to juggle work, family and home. This communicating problem can feel that you’re the only who ‘gets it’; leaving you angry and frustrated.

How you’re communicating is only as good as the response you get

These parent and child communication problems are common.

But what causes this lack of communication between parent and child? Before pointing blame at our child, I offer we check our communication first. It maybe that that is where the problem lies.

A friend recently shared an exercise he’d recently used when teaching English in a school in Zambia. He wanted to highlight to the students how much information we delete when we explain something.

He began by asking them to imagine that an alien had arrived in the school. In small groups the students had to write instructions to explain to this alien how to put on a shoe. He then assumed the role of the alien, following the instructions each group read out.

“Put the shoe on”. So he put the shoe on top of his foot. They changed the instruction, “Undo the laces”. So he unthreaded all the laces. “Put the shoe on the left foot”. But as an alien he wouldn’t know what was left or right.  He wanted the students to notice that sometimes it’s us who need to adjust what we are communicating when instructions aren’t followed.

Recognise this?

You prepared the lunchboxes the evening before. You wake up early so you can get yourself ready for the day. By the time you’re dressed and ready, the children are still in their pyjamas and watching television, on an iPad or bickering. You’re getting breakfast sorted. And you’re feeling the stress levels rise as you mentally weigh up whether you have time to put a wash on.

At each stage your mind is already thinking two steps ahead. Mapping out how the morning has to work so that you all can leave on time. And often it’s usually at this point that you’re told of the forgotten homework that’s due today.

You’re left feeling deeply frustrated and, truth be told, feeling lonely.

So what are we communicating?

Because our minds are running ahead of us, planning and evaluating, it’s easy to think in shortcuts and delete bits of information.  Our brains working two or three steps ahead and only need to operate in mental shorthand. Whilst this short circuitry is fine in our minds, often our children can struggle to appreciate what is happening.

Avoid tension and a source of conflict by checking you’re not setting expectations or requests that are beyond the ability of the child to do fully and independently.

This deletion of stuff we have in our heads can lead us to miscommunicate what we want to achieve, and our child doesn’t understand. When they don’t get it right, it’s a source of frustration and anger.

Sound familiar?

Perhaps these are some phrases you hear yourself say:

“They should know to get ready on time.”

“We’re leaving in 10 mins.”

“Why aren’t you ready?”

Ultimately frustration can revolve around you saying to yourself, “Because if I know it, why don’t they?”

There’s a ‘but’

Let’s challenge those statements:

“They should know to get ready on time”. But how should they know?

“We’re leaving in 10 minutes”. Does your child know how to read the time or measure  what 10 minutes actually is?

“Why aren’t you ready?”. When they’re left in front of the TV and expect them to turn it off and get ready.

Isn’t it like asking them to do something that they’re untrained to do? Just because you’re running around getting ready to leave doesn’t always translate that they need to knuckle down too and get ready. But that’s often where the communication problem with children can lie.

Avoid tension and a source of conflict by checking you’re not setting expectations or requests that are beyond the ability of the child to do fully and independently.

Think it through: What is the problem?

We are only ever as good as the response we get. It’s worth a moment to check in and think whether your communication is understood. Perhaps it isn’t. Perhaps there needs to be another approach.

What if you’re trying to get your child to do something yet you start already frustrated? How does this affect you? What behaviour do you display and how might that translate to your child?

We rarely perform at our best when we are under stress, anxiety or feeling overwhelmed. This naturally filters through to the words we use, and how we say them.

What might have you inadvertently deleted from your request? Have you missed out some bit of information that in hindsight would have been beneficial?

An invitation

Bringing this back to my opening point, I’m inviting you to consider that there is a benefit of reviewing what you assume your child knows, perhaps they don’t and we need to check with them to see whether they understand what you are expecting from them. Check in with what you’re actually communicating.

Perhaps there’s something in what you said, or how you communicated? Have you really been clear with them? Eye-level, no distractions and got them to repeat what their roles are?

I really invite you to look at what happens when you’ve not got the outcome you wanted or hoped for.

Thanks for reading

If you enjoyed this article, hit the like button below. Would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the article.

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About the Author

Ben Jackson is a registered counsellor, coach, and lecturer with nearly 10 years of professional experience. He helps clients with stress and anxiety, anger management, self esteem, confidence, and depression.

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10 responses to “Problems Communicating With Your Child”

  1. Circus Mum says:

    Yes! This is so true and something I only really started considering recently. Coincidentally, it was the morning routine which made me realise I wasn’t always being the best communicator with my daughter and made me reevaluate the way in which I talk to her in order to get things done in the mornings! I really enjoyed this post. #UKParentBloggers

    • Ben says:

      That’s wonderful! Thank you for commenting and sharing your story. I think all it takes is a little perspective at the right moment which can really help to see things in a different way. And that’s a prime example of it. There is no right or wrong, life gets hectic, it’s just about checking in to make sure we are communicating what we want.

  2. MONNKA says:

    My daughter is still too small, but it is very useful information about what awaits me!

    • Ben says:

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment! Yes, you’re right. At this pre-verbal stage you can still be mindful of what you communicate by your actions. If you have a look at my article , “Think You Know What Your Child Sees?” it’ll really make you aware how much a child is ‘reading’ you, without words.

  3. Nikki says:

    Breaking this down is so helpful! “By checking you’re not setting expectations … that are beyond the ability of the child…” YES! I never thought of it this way. This has definitely given me food for thought.

    • Ben says:

      That’s great Nikki! So pleased you found it interesting and informative. We can too often jam ourselves into outcomes that our children are too young to perform. Hope it helps 🙂

  4. Excellent dissection. I’m not a mom but I have been frustrated when I don’t get the feedback I want from my peers, it really boils to ineffective communication. This really helped me, thanks 🙂

    • Ben says:

      Hey there, Divya, you pick up on such a valid point. And while not mentioned directly the intrinsic information is useful for any interaction at any age. And it’s good practice to check whether what you think is clear, is actually understood by the other person. In addition there are more subtleties with language that help communication: some people respond better to more ‘visual’ based words, others to more emotion based words. It’s always about discovering what works for the other person. Really pleased the article helped 🙂

  5. SO guilty. I am sure that I do this. I really need to slow down and consider your alien scenario sometimes.

    • Ben says:

      Well awareness and acceptance of the behaviour you no longer want is the first step to change 🙂 I think you might be surprised how you now notice it more often. 🙂

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