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This four-page article offers ways to
improve communication outcomes with the young people in your life. It provides...
A definition of effective communication
Why communicating with typical
kids is very different
than with healthy adults
General options for better outcomes
Options for better outcomes with typical
Options for handling eight
common problems with typical teens; and...
Suggestions for adults in
divorcing families and stepfamilies.
research on maternal stress, bonding, and kids' later
Think of one or more kids in your life with whom you have significant
trouble communicating. Then identify one
of more kids you can generally communicate "well" (effectively) with. Keep these
mind as you absorb the options below...
What's the Problem?
Premises - any behavior in one person that causes a "significant" mental /
emotional / physical / and/or spiritual reaction in another person is
"communication." Significant is a subjective judgment.Living things instinctively communicate
(behave) to avoid or reduce current
discomforts (fill needs) and to in-crease local pleasures. So effective humancommunication...
in a way
that leaves everyone respecting themselves, each other, and the process
between them well enough.
Effective communication on important topics is often hard to achieve between average
adults because of
unawareness and unseen psychological
wounds. It's often harder to
communicate effectively with typical kids, because...
Kids Aren't Adults (Duh)
People of different races struggle to understand each other's
alien verbal and
non-verbal languages. In some respects, typical kids and adults
are "aliens" seeking to be understood and decode each other's unique needs,
traits, and languages.
How would you summarize the key differences between typical adults and minor kids?
Compare your view with these generalities:
average minor kids...
have less life experience and knowledge
than adults, so
they're more prone to "bad judgment" ('mistakes'), unrealistic expectations, misunderstandings,
wrong assumptions, and disagreeing with adult opinions,
requests and demands;
true Self (capital "S") is inexperienced, so
the child depends on the Selves of their adults to guide and
protect them. If their grownups
are ruled by
false selves, average kids acquire and carry significant psychological wounds into adulthood. And...
typical kids have shorter attention spans, undeveloped social
skills, and smaller vocabularies than average women and men. And kids...
have been self-centered since infancy, so they
usually have 1-person
awareness bubbles unless they're scared, concerned, or curious.
And average kids...
are more impulsive and focused on immediate
gratification than healthy adults. Their
Manager subselves are much less developed than
those in healthy
adults, so kids are more prone to present-moment confusion,
mind-changing. And most kids...
fewer and different social responsibilities than average adults - i.e. they have fewer
needs and priorities to balance, so
they can't empathize with
the dynamic complexity of adults' needs, priorities, and feelings. In
particular, kids can't empathize with the complex roles and goals of mother, father, grandmother, and grandfather -
tho they may think
And typical kids...
less confident and more insecure than average adults,
depending on how
patient, and empathic their caregivers have been so far; and kids...
have different age-related interests
(priorities) than most adults; and they...
are physically weaker than able adults, may
be quicker, and are less aware and knowledgeable of their changing bodies.
are (a) more needy of adult and peer
acceptance and approval, and (b) more reactive to possible or perceived scorn,
rejection, and abandonment. And minor children...
are less able to identify and
describe their feelings and primary needs than healthy, aware adults, and are more apt to be
frustrated by this. And also, kids...
may be more volatile in (have less
control over) expressing their emotions, unless they protectively numb
or repress them; and average kids...
may be more aggressive (1-up) or more
timid and submissive (1-down) than average healthy adults; and they...
are often more prone to self-neglect and
taking health risks, because they feel invincible and im-mortal; and...
kids instinctively need to testrepeatedlywhen their
and/or physical environment changes, to
"Who makes the rules and decisions now?"
"Am I (and any siblings)
"How important are my needs in this home
"How much power do I have in my home
and family now?"
Lacking communication skills,
often their way of testing seems like rebellion, indifference,
disrespect, "forgetting," and/or defiance.
And as they age, kids...
eventually face the confusing, scary,
exciting identity and role transitions from dependent child to independent adult. By their mid-20s, most
adults have already made this transition, and may be losing empathy for
what it feels like. (Remember?) And...
typical post-puberty teens and some young
adults have additional differences (below).
Add your own
child / adult differences...
and think of a special child in your life. Do many of these differences
apply to her or him? Does this summary help you accept that every
minor child is a kind
of "alien" whose traits and language you have to learn in order to express
your needs effectively and understand
of the concurrent differences above ranges from minor to major in impact, depending on the
nurturance-level, gender, and
life-experience of kids and adults. Typical over-busy, distracted adults often
forget what being a child felt like - true?
that immature or childish adults who aren't aware of being controlled by
inner kids often have many of these same
"alien" traits, compared to
psychologically-healthier adults guided by their wise
subselves and Higher Power. Also note that some kids from low-nurturance
families have to mature
quickly to survive, and may seem like "little
adults." They are not, no matter how responsible and intelligent
Bottom line - these many differences combine to make effective communication
between typical minor kids
and adults hard at any age. Do you agree? Remind yourself of these
"alien traits" the next time you're frustrated and/or disrespected
by a young person!
Now lets look at effective-communication options for...
typical pre-teens, and...
Options for Effective
Some techniques help regardless of a child's age, role, or gender, and
others may not. Option - pick a specific child, and use this as a
checklist. The more you practice and tailor these options, the more
automatic they'll become.Circle, check, or star any of these with
special meaning to you.
full responsibility for communicating effectively. Kids don't
know how yet, so blaming them is unrealistic and abusive. Your job is to
patiently show and teach them how to communicate in all situations. Part of this
responsibility is to make (vs. find)enough undistracted
time to talk and
listen. Not doing this is a
unintended child neglect.
Work to maintain an
attitude of mutual respect, despite your age and knowledge
differences. Difficulty doing this often
indicates a well-meaning
false-self controls you. Periodically ask yourself "What verbal and
R(espect) messages is this child receiving from me?"
4) Discuss, and agree on a
specific definition of
effective parentingwith relevant adults.Imagine
discussing your definition with each of your kids when they become
to keep a multi-decade view vs. focusing only on immediate
needs. Negotiate and work toward achieving clear, long-term co-parenting
goals with other family adults. The
overall quality of your shared parenting efforts and goals will have major
in the coming decades...
Periodically (e.g. at birthdays) review your
child/ren's age-appropriate developmental
and any special adjustment needs, and
specifically what you're responsible for in
your caregiver role.
Stay aware of your main
priorities, as demonstrated by your
actions. How high do "parent effectively"
and "communicate effectively" rank with each of your family adults these
8) Evolve a clear definition of
child discipline (Lesson 6), and practice it. Explain what you're doing
in age-appropriate language. As parents themselves, your kids will
re-member what you did and how they felt, more than what you said.
Is that true of you and your early care-givers?
Use respectful, non-defensive
hearing checks often.
Explain them; and encourage children to use them too.
Praise them when they remember to do so, vs. scolding them when they
Maintain comfortable eye contact, and minimize intimidation and
shame by getting on the same eye-level with the child where possible to
avoid lookingdown on them.
Define your criteria for
an "important situation." What seems
routine or trivial to you can be very important to a child, and vice versa!
Check each of you for significant emotional, physical, and
Seek to reduce any you find before trying important
common invisible distraction is
inner conflicts in you and the child. Attend them first before tackling mutual problems.
Option - teach kids about
personality subselves or "inner voices" and inner conflicts at an age-appropriate level. This
13) "Problems" are unfilled
(discomforts), so identify
specifically (a) what you need from the child, and (b) guesstimate what
s/he needs from you now.In important situations, work to
primary needs causing your respective
communication and other needs.
Be alert for
communication-need conflicts, (e.g. I need action, and you need to vent) and resolve them after any
internal conflicts. Suggestion - teach the child what
communication-needs and need-conflicts are, and how to resolve them.
Suggestion - teach each
R(espect)-messages, and how to evaluate and describe them. Premise:
respect must be earned,so disrespect in a
child is often the adults' fault.
Do you agree?
Watch for chances to affirm
and praise the child when you honestly feel appreciative.
Have fun using "dodge-proof"
praise-assertions!Suggestion - review your attitude
pride in yourself and the child, and update it as needed.
Ponder this memo for
perspective on any child. Suggestion - read and discuss the memo
with them in age-appropriate terms.
Watch your respective
E(motion)-levels. If the child's level goes "above their ears," slow down and use
until their E-level drops "below their ears" and their hearing resumes;
Respectfully model and
coach the child to use two-person
awareness bubbles, being careful not to
them. Make a game out of this with young kids;
Mentally review your Personal
Bill of Rights, and use it to justify your assertions. Stay aware that
the child has equal dignity and
rights, regardless of age, gender, and your greater
responsibilities and knowledge! If you don't agree, or "forget" this, a
false-self probably controls you;
When appropriate, tell the
child whether you're making a request("No" or "Maybe" are OK respon-ses)
or a demand ("No" or
"Maybe later") are not acceptable).
Ask for and offer
hearing checks on important points
("Please tell me what you just heard me
say."), and model them with the child. Stay clear that hearing
does not necessarily mean agreeing.
Train yourself to be aware of your voice tone, eye contact, and body
language. If they don't match your words or each other (a double or
mixed message) other people will be confused and distrustful of you but may not say so.
"Words may lie, but bodies don't."
be concrete, brief, and specific.
(a) generalities, (b) vague terms and pronouns(like it, them, they, those things, that stuff, sort of, the
problem, deal with, work through,...)
(c) "hand-grenade" (emotionally-provocative) terms
and phrases. (This helps with adults, too!).
stay focused on one need or problem at a time, until you both feel
done with it. Patiently help kids learn the value of this, and how to
stay focused; This requires steady self and mutual awareness - i.e.
stable two-person awareness bubbles;
30) keep your language simple,
and avoid long explanations and lectures. Don't assume kids know the
meaning of common words - check it out - (Ramona, can you tell me what
'distracted' means?"). Inten-tionally help the child build her/his vocabulary - a win-win project!
Practice the art of using metaphorsandstoriesto interest kids and illustrate your points (e.g. it's better to teach a hungry person
how to fish than to give them a fish;" and "She was as nervous as
a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.")
Apply these communication tipsandphrases as appropriate; and...
With specially vexing or complex
relationship problems, try
mapping your usual communication
process problems and options for improvement.
34)Learn how to spot and decline lose-lose power struggles and teach your child/ren how to manage them;
35) Learn"good grief" basics, and be
alert for chances to help kids grieve. Learn grieving
terms, and model and
teach the child how to be an effective
grief supporter. See Lesson 3.
Both of these often send
R(espect)-messages, despite your good intentions
own communication guidelines)
Stretch, breathe, and reflect. We just reviewed...
two requisites for effective communication
with anyone; (can you name them?)
reasons why typical kids are "aliens"
compared to average adults;
basic requisites for communicating with kids
effectively, (can you name them?) and...
36 options for communicating
effectively with any child. Most apply equally to adults.
What are you
thinking and feeling
now? Which of these options do you want to remember and/or try out? Have you ever
seen options like these in one place before? How many adults do you think
could name even 15 of these 36 options? Do you think average schools are teaching
these communication tools and techniques to average kids? I doubt it.
Do you agree now that many adults don't know what they don't know about
communicating with the youngsters (and adults)?
Without informed intervention, their (your) kids will grow up equally
Continue with more
options. Do you need a stretch break first?