I’d like to write today about my first meeting with families, and how communication plays a vital role. The process generally goes something like this: After discussing the reason they have sought out help, we discuss how the family currently functions. We talk about the parents’ relationship with their children and with one another. We talk about how the kids relate to their siblings and how they relate to their parents. I then ask the parents something along the lines of “Tell me a little bit about your relationship with *Johnny*.” Some parents are confused by this question. Most parents answer with something like “Things go well when *Johnny* is in a good mood, but when he is in a bad mood, we all have to watch out.” There can be further details about the relationship and sometimes they will highlight all the fun activities that they enjoy doing with their child. All of this information is very helpful as I begin to understand the family’s struggles. What it does not always address is how communication is happening within the family.
I find that the families I work with frequently neither possess nor know how to acquire ways to communicate effectively with one another. Many of the families describe that they feel manipulated by the communication with their children. This pattern is one of the most difficult changes we ask families to make. We look to break the cycles of years of built-up patterns of communications.
There are lots of ways to work on changing these patterns. Finding the method that works for you and your family is key. Over the past weekend, I had the good fortune of attending the One Change Group’s Real Change workshop. This two day workshop focused on changing communication patterns as well as teaching additional communication and parenting skills. The two day workshop was filled with a mixture of moms, dads, children, single parents, families, and professionals. We shared our stories and asked lots of questions all in the hope of changing our patterns of communication.
In order to change the patterns, the pain of the way things are going has to be greater than the fear of changing. As with everything in life, changing communication patterns is difficult work and takes practice. We have to be forgiving of ourselves that we will get it right one hundred percent of the time. We also have to become aware of our patterns as a means to break them.
To change these patterns there are some simple changes that can make a huge impact on communication.
- Check yourself – During conversations that are highly emotional everyone involved needs to try and be aware of their emotional state. When we get highly emotional our brain shuts down and we can not be rational. So it is OK in those moments to take a timeout. The key to effectively using a timeout is to schedule a time when everyone is going to come back together in the next twenty-four hours to finish discussing the topic.
- You have two ears and one mouth, so listen twice as much as you speak – What you and your child have to say is equally as important. Make sure that you listen and repeat back what you hear your child saying, and ask them to do the same before having them respond to the topic of the conversation.
- Share the love – we hear the negative far louder than the positive. In fact, for every negative comment we hear it takes forty positive ones to cancel it out. It is easy to point out all the things that others are not doing, but keep in mind that we all need positive reinforcement. This is true for ourselves and others. We need to continually give ourselves positive reinforcement as well.
Start with changing these pieces of your communication at home and you will see the ripple effect. These skills can be used in every aspect of your life, work, home, school, friendships and beyond. My suggestion is to try one skill for thirty days and see how it goes. If you are looking for more information about parenting skills and increasing the communication in your home, Prepare To Bloom may be able to help. Check us out at PrepareToBloom.com or call us at (925) 526-5685.