The Mars Venus Coaching Workshop: Children are From Heaven, tells us that children are a gift. But with school letting out for summer in just a matter of weeks, some parents might beg to differ. Do you ever feel overwhelmed by all the time you are responsible for filling with fun, structure, and learning opportunities for your kids? Even though summer is a fun time for the beach, pool, and family vacations—as parents we also have to make sure our stress levels stay low so we can keep our cool with our kids. In order to raise healthy and cooperative children and teens sometimes it’s helpful to revisit our parenting skills. The following ideas are adapted from Dr. John Gray’s book, Children Are from Heaven: Positive Parenting Skills for Raising Cooperative, Confident, and Compassionate Children.
If we want our children to be able to survive, thrive, and compete in today’s world, we need to prepare our children by using the most effective and modern approaches to parenting. Positive parenting may or may not be something your parents did when they were raising you. As a parent you do this by doing the following five skills in the left-hand column entitled, “do” on a daily basis. The more you are able to interact with your children using these skills, the more your kids will be thoughtful, respectful, conscientious people.
2. Listen and nurture
3. Offer rewards
4. Command or assert leadership
5. Give time-outs to maintain control when
2. Fix it
3. Punish or shame
4. Demand, yell, become emotional
5. Spank or hit emotions overwhelm
This article focuses on how you can improve communication and minimize resistance by concentrating on the first two skills: asking and nurturing so you can inspire your kids to cooperate. When summer begins, and the kids are at home—a whole host of chores crop up just due to extra traffic in your home. Accidents, spills, and breaks happen when little feet are under foot (even if they’re your teenage son’s size 10 feet!). Negotiation skills start during the toddler years, and they continue into adulthood.
For the first skill, asking, phrase your requests in a way that will minimize resistance. When you make requests use “will you” and “would you” rather than “can you” and “could you” (particularly with boys) (and men!) . Why? Well, when you use the phrase “Would you please clean up this mess?” you are making a direct request that requires a thought process of “hmm, will I or won’t I”. However, when you say “Can you clean up this mess?” you are actually, technically asking a question about someone’s competence to do the task.
For the second skill, nurturing, remember different children need to be nurtured in different ways depending on their temperament. Sensitive children need to be listened to and understood. Active children need preparation and structure to do well. Responsive children need distraction and direction to be cooperative. And receptive children need ritual and rhythm to bring out their best selves.
Improve Communication & Minimize Resistance
Children typically resist for one of two reasons. Either:
1. Children don’t feel heard or seen, or
2. They are not getting what they need or want.
You minimize a child’s resistance by doing two things:
1. Consistently setting boundaries.
Expect there to be challenges—this is not undermining your authority, they are just learning and testing the parameters you are setting. Life is dynamic, so while rules may change based on the circumstances, your boundaries change in regards to their developmental level.
2. Listening and asking questions to draw out feelings.
If we have trouble controlling our own emotions, just think how much harder it is for your children to even identify what emotions they are feeling. Childhood is a time for exploration, and part of this is helping your children find words and explanations for their feelings so they can learn to use them constructively.
Parents can minimize resistance by validating their child’s emotions of anger, sadness, or fear in a calm, warm way. You can also reaffirm boundaries and redirect attention when you find your child resisting your requests. Teaching delayed gratification also helps children understand that their needs are heard, but you also teach patience and consequences as you help them reason through why now you aren’t able to fulfill their need, but you can if they do such and such first.
The easiest way to inspire cooperation is to ask instead of order or demand. Remember you do this by using: would/will you, instead of could/can you. The more direct you are in asking for help, the easier it is for a child to make a yes or no decision. When you eliminate rhetorical questions, and give up explanations and lectures you are able to meet them at their reasoning level according to their age. Getting down and talking to kids at their eye level, also let’s kids know that what they have to say is important too. And, remember don’t use feelings to manipulate, because this is not a behavior you’d like your kids to use on others when not in your presence. The magic word is “let’s.”
If you’re interested in learning more about positive parenting, you can find Mars Venus coaches in your local area, and inquire when they’re next Children Are From Heaven will be presented so you can ask questions and take part in group exercises. Or, if time’s a constraint, you can do the eWorkshop version, which let’s you learn the material from the comfort of your own home and on your own time! Remember consistency is key.