“If parents and kids can talk together, we won’t have as much censorship because we won’t have as much fear.”
― Judy Blume
I have referred to my work with young people with learning difficuties a number of times before.
Especially noteworthy are my sensory videos showcasing glimpses into art classes catering for profound learning disabilities and children on the autistic spectrum. All videos on there are applicable for toddlers and anyone in mainstream education also.
I became a parent in 2009.
This meant I couldn’t offer art workshops any longer or work in a one to one capacity with kids linked to social services or out of mainstream schooling.
But everything I have learned from this work is as applicable now more than ever with my own children. Take from it what you will.
If my training has taught me anything, it’s that all of these skills are people relatable and entirely transferable.
Furthermore see this as my confession to you
I am not a model parent who speaks gently to her kids EVERY time there is a ruckus. I fail at least fourteen times a day in how I address drama, and I am constantly trying to utilise the skills I have to better my parenting.
A few tips to aid communication with our offspring
1. Go for the less direct approach in conversation.
The aim is to get beyond “it was fine”.
Use language that starts with what you have been doing and ends with them e.g.:
“Today at lunchtime I took your brother to the park and it was very cold”
Followed with your question;
“Did you get outside at lunch into the cold?” Or “Who were you chatting to at lunch time?”
All of this focuses less on the importance of the answer.
It can take a few attempts but by you doing this the roundabout way you are helping them find a specific time in the day and trying to attach an emotion or physical feeling like you had, to it.
2. Maximise busy hands on little people.
Any time you are using playdoh, building lego bricks, baking or washing the car with your kids, their hands are busy and their mind is more open to response.
It is why art therapy is so effective.
The learning and focus of the child is in his or her hands therefore they lose inhabitions and the intensity which face to face contact can bring.
I still feel so connected to my kids or friends kids if we have playdoh or lego, special insights come out of these snippets into their world and imagination.
They lose fear.
Here is a link to my homemade play dough video
3. Keep reward charts positive.
Easier said than done and something we constantly change in our home but adjust them according to your childs needs.
I remember making a tractor chart out of cardboard which lasted three weeks and was rubbish. Not worth the effort.
We tried the time out step when both were toddlers but really the only good to come from that was that it meant we were mixed up between the chart and the step so everyone was confused.
It did teach us that yelling,
(my husband and I are still working on making our house a less shouty environment …)isn’t any more effective than breathing deep and talking quietly towards the kid in a tantrum.
Right now we have the blackboard which has written reminders (you can use pictures if kids are smaller) of what we agreed as a family they could help with around the house in morning, afternoon and evening e.g.: brush teeth and tidying toys, setting table etc.
At the bottom are “REWARDS” – every activity they absolutely love to do.
No ticks or stars or sad faces, just words and gentle reminders.
Like I say, we are constancly evolving and that’s ok. Furthermore if you can do without a chart, definitely do it. Ours is inconsistent and ultimately we just want our kids to feel loved,
to know self worth from completing small tasks which help our family
and, to realise that work is rewarding and rewards are worth our effort.
4. Refrain from the terms “good boy/girl” or “bad boy/girl“.
Reflect more on the behaviour rather than the child themselves.
This notion comes from my politically correct days working in schools but it is a good one.
“That wasn’t great behaviour” is labelling the action rather than the child themselves.
Recently we were looking after my sister in law’s dog and our four year old referred to her as a “bad dog” a number of times which annoyed me no end.
Over the two weeks we tried to remind him to say “Darcy (the dog) that isn’t good behaviour”.. HILARIOUS when referring to a dog but any time she ran away our four year old watched like a hawk to see how we addressed her.
Kids are constantly mirroring us and our words.
5. Be interested in their conversation.
Drop the phone when they are telling you a story, even if it is about a subject you don’t understand, or like.
My seven year old comes alive with animation when he talks about games on his amazon pad.
It drives me nuts and we have had to reduce the pad time recently to weekends only because of their increased obsession. However I have concluded that it’s his “thing” and I know when I hound my husband with my own big creative ideas for my art, I love when he looks at me, engages with me and listens.
So imagine how that must feel for our kids to see us listen to them
and feel the emotion they feel when they are trying to communicate to us. This builds their self belief and will really help your relationship and closeness.
6.Let them choose whatever they want (!)
As in, surprise them every now and then by letting them decide from choice cards or their own memory bank an activity that they absolutely want to do.
I did this last week with my kids and they were genuinely shocked that I really meant they could do whatever they want, ANYTHING.
Thankfully they wanted time on their pads but equally they asked for a bike ride.
Giving them the decision increases how valued they feel.
When I worked with young people who abused drugs, I set up stations of their favourite crafts or video games. In some respects it was still a controlled environment, but they essentially directed how the time went and this worked in promoting self worth and confidence while keeping in mind their short attention span.
7. Praise them
I mention in my Motherhood guide that we are not raising little kings and queens so I don’t mean to bow at their feet.
Let them know the word ‘yes’ and ‘well done’. We live in a world of parenting where “NO” and ” you can’t ” you shouldn’t” you haven’t” along with many other negative connotations surround them every day in their world.
Stay positive as much as possible (not always possible!)
and show them love in how you praise their little efforts; ” great listening” ,” good job with tidying your shoes” etc.
They’re pretty special beings, lets remind them of that without going overboard.
8. Keep the tv off when eating dinner.
I have another post stocked up about my kids refusing to eat the same food as me half of the week so our meal times aren’t perfect.
“Some of the most important conversations I’ve ever had occurred at my family’s dinner table”. Bob Ehrlich
I love time around the table even though my kids are not great at sitting for long periods of time.
Continuing on from point 5 the conversation doesn’t have to be solely on them.
Reminding them of funny events you witnessed with them throughout the week, asking them about future events which they will be doing i.e: a friend’s birthday party is a good place to start .
This all adds to the flow of conversation and keeps them sitting and interested.
It also shows community and togetherness.
So there you are. Some little nuggets worth trying. Thanks for reading and happy parenting!!
If you’re on INSTAGRAM don’t forget to tag #MOTHERHOODALIVE and join in with Mel+my movement supporting Mum’s in what makes them spark! Read more here.