Effective Communication Between Parents and Kids

By: Behaviorally Speaking

View from behind of happy mother and child talking on outdoor patio

About this Podcast Episode

On this episode, Angela and Kristin talk about the different approaches to communication in families and why this is an important topic to dedicate time to. They share several tips to facilitate more clear and positive communication between parents and their kids.

About the Hosts

Angela Nelson, Ed.D., BCBA, and Kristin Bandi, MA, BCBA, are Board Certified Behavior Analysts with expertise on human behavior and child development. They spend their days working with parents and caregivers of both typically developing children as well as children with learning, social, and behavioral challenges, or developmental disabilities. This podcast is brought to you by RethinkCare

If you need support as a parent or caregiver of a child, we encourage you to ask your Human Resources team if RethinkCare is a part of your employer-provided benefits.  RethinkCare reaches millions of lives globally through partnerships with top organizations and Fortune 1,000 companies.


Welcome to episode 35 of Behaviorally Speaking, a podcast featuring board certified behavior analysts Angela Nelson and Kristin Bandi. On this episode, they’ll share tips with parents to facilitate more clear and positive communication with their kids. And now, here are your hosts, Angela Nelson and Kristin Bandi.

Angela: Hello and welcome to our 35th episode of Behaviorally Speaking. I’m one of your hosts Angela Nelson a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst and mother of 2.

Kristin: And I’m Kristin Bandi also a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst and mother of 3. Hey Angie, how’s it going?

Angela: It is going well, at the time of our recording it is spring break for my kids so they’re lounging on the couch watching a movie, watching The Lorax right now. So yeah.

Kristin: I’m pretty confident that your kids were home when we recorded it last year this time and I actually think, like we heard some like, giggles and laughter in the background and I remember you being like full disclaimer, spring break and so my kids are home.

Angela: Um, yes oh gosh that’s, pretty soon it’ll be summertime and then that’ll be happening.

Kristin: So yes, oh yeah, what are we gonna even going to do, oh man aside from summer camp weeks hopefully.

Angela: Yes, we are just going through that right now we’re looking at the catalog and I’m doing a couple weeks of camps, a couple weeks of not because the kids are old enough now they can just play Barbies at home some of the weeks you know, save a little money. Give them some downtime.

Kristin: Ah, yes, as well we were just talking about summer camps over here too and we had some. Friends who came into town from New Jersey and they were talking about like the costs of summer camps and we were just saying like it’s crazy how different it is across the country and I had 1 parent talking to me about the cost of summer camp for her kids and I was just like oh my goodness that I just can’t believe that, it’s just, first of all its so expensive, but second you have to get in like way ahead of the time it’s like it’s a whole process every year so oh it’s like a whole thing.

Angela: There’s a big spread of cost in here in southern California kind of depends on the camp you do, but yeah, we gotta register by like April or you’re not in summer.

Kristin: Yeah, that’s true. Yeah, and that’s because you have to, I mean you’re a planner obviously right? But I feel like sometimes you can’t, what if you’re not like a huge planner and then you’re like oh wait oh no we wanted to take like summer vacation that week and then you’re already committed to a summer camp. It’s just like these are the things that go through my head like oh man, so you know I know there’s no segue from that into our conversation today. Although maybe a little about communication right? So sure, all right? Okay.

Angela: Speaking of which let’s get into the topic today. So, what are we talking about? We’re talking about effective communication between kids or teens and their parents. And you and I when we were prepping for this we were talking about why this is an important one. I mean I think a lot of the topics that we dive into are really worth discussing, this one I think in particular because it’s important to think about how we lay the groundwork for when our kids and teens are older so this is a way that we can communicate, speak at teach good communication. Between parents and kids and then that way they’ll have those skillsets when they go into the workplace and when they’re interacting with their friends and future partners and even their own kids perhaps, if they want to in the future, so definitely an important topic for now, starting and thinking about it now when your kids are young.

Kristin: Oh, it’s so true I mean it’s such a big one and it probably feels like heavy now is like oh man. Wow I didn’t realize that you know if I wasn’t properly communicating with my kids like am I studying them up for failure later. Um, so no, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered we came up with a bunch of tips that can be really helpful across all ages depending on where your kids are and 1 thing that we did that we you know as we were talking about this topic we came to the conclusion, or we really realized that there’s 2 different levels here of communication so we’re going to break it down a little bit for you and first when we’re talking about effective communication with our kids. We’re talking about, we just want to get heard on both ends right? Are our kids listening to us and are we listening to our kids right? That’s kind of the like if you say clean up your room or go get your shoes and so some of the just basic standard listening right in terms of communication. But then as kids get older. We really want to foster more of that relationship with communication. So, think about it like relationship building with your kids and your teens and we really want to find ways for to foster that and to grow that as kids get older so that they are coming to you and they’re telling you things and they’re not keeping information from you because of fear of how you might react and so we’re going to go through all of that today but we wanted to break it down a little bit for you.

Angela: Yeah, that’s kind of foreshadowing for next episode 2 like the honesty piece.

Kristin: Um, yes oh that’s right? And yeah, perfect.

Angela: Yeah, so let’s get into it. Um, we didn’t break it down by kids and teens like we sometimes do I think this is going to be pretty straightforward.

Getting Heard

Angela: The first one and Kristin to your point about kind of that first level the more basic foundational level of communication just getting heard being you know listening and so on. It’s really important to remember to get your kids or teens attention first before you start talking to them or before you give a directive. I’m guilty of this I imagine all or most parents are guilty of this at some point where they’re just yelling hey can you know clean up your room or can you do that? Hey, can you bring this in. Um and it’s really important, especially when they’re younger or maybe they have a tendency to get distracted or maybe 2 new out.

Angela: Um, if you’re giving a directive in particular. So, if they’re if they’re not really listening. It’s really easy for them to say oh I didn’t I didn’t hear you I didn’t hear you so get their attention. Grab their attention. Maybe it’s eye contact or at least you’re getting some sort of um confirmation. Yep I heard you? What? What is it? You know and then you can give an instruction um and then the other thing too. As a side note we talk about this quite a bit only gives directives only communicate directives with your kids if you can actually follow through. So, if you do ask them to do something, but you’re not really following through and maybe you do that quite a lot your kids know that then your requests are not going to be. They’re going to be kind of empty requests right? So, they might not often be fulfilled so get their attention first before giving a directive and then follow through on that directive.

Set a Learning History

Kristin: Yeah, and the second part of that is a big one and ah to play devil’s advocate and what I usually get from parents is well. They should just follow the direction just because right? But I have to talk to parents and say well not if we’ve if we haven’t set that learning history. Right? So, like you said Angie if your kids get used to not having to do what you say because you didn’t follow through the first 15 times throughout the last month right then that’s their norm and that’s what they’re used to. So, we have to rewrite that a little bit and work through it and have them actually follow you follow through as the parent and then eventually yes then you can fade your support and you don’t have to be on top of them every single time you give a direction, but I think it’s important to highlight that because a lot of parents. Want to start at “z” when then you did start “a” for example?

Allow Kids to be Part of the Plan

Kristin: So, moving along ah the next tip here allowing kids to be a part of the plan. I love this one I suggest this one a lot and it’s really helpful and this I guess kind of goes back to the summer camp example that we were just talking about but a lot of times as parents we want to just say well here’s what you’re doing right? And when they’re really little. That works. Okay, when they’re 3 and 4 and we’re simply saying here’s what you’re doing but as kids get older. They actually want to be a part of the plan you probably need to get their buy-in and you could offer more choices to allow them to be a part of that plan. So, um, you just might get more bang for your buck this way if you start to bring them into the fold.

Active Listening

Angela: Yeah, absolutely 100% definitely so going on to the next one here as we’re communicating with our kids be present with them. This isn’t always as easy as it as it seems right? We are running around and so on, but it is important to be intentional about it if your child is trying to tell you something especially if it’s something important or something that’s upsetting to them work on your active listening right? Be. Be there to hear what they’re saying acknowledge that you heard them. It might not be something in that you necessarily agree with right? But you’re acknowledging like ah huh I heard you? Yep! Okay, oh yeah, that definitely sounds frustrating so you’re using those words to convey and demonstrate that you’re actively listening that can go. Long way. Um I do a lot of that in the car. We you know as parents you do a lot of guiltily words with 1 stone sort of thing try to multitask but ah my kids tend to really dive into a lot of conversations in the car. Everyone’s just there. They’re present and that’s a good time to really listen to them. You can’ make eye contact with them at that time when you’re driving but that’s a really good time for me to stop and just listen to what they’re saying but you know at other times too. If they are communicating that they want to talk with you. It is good to put your phone downturn away from the laptop. Listen to them. That’s conveying kind of that mutual respect and also modeling mutual respect too. It’s good for them to see that and then they know that you’re truly listening to them.

Kristin: Right? Yeah oh I love this one and like you said I think it’s not always possible and so maybe even keeping in mind that it’s not always possible, but you can acknowledge that right? So, let’s say your child comes up to you and they’re trying to tell you something that happened and you’re in the middle of a work email because you’re maybe still working right? And they’re out of school and whatnot you can say oh I really want to hear about that. Give me just one more minute here and then I will listen right? So, I feel like again, it’s about just how are we communicating? How are we? How are we being present and letting them know. So yeah, you could do that too.

Angela: Yeah, and I think if you say that’s a good point if you say just give me one more minute then in one more minute you know, uphold your but the bar your end of the bargain right? This is like my weekly thing so often the kids will run in. They want to tell me about some social squabble that happened at school and this kid is no longer friends with this kid and you know I’m trying to rush to get stuff done on my computer and then we got to drive to volleyball or drive to gymnastics and so I’ll tell them they look you know I really want to hear this and I’m going to be able to listen to you on the whole drive over. Um, just let me wrap this up and then and then I want to hear what you have to say so um, so yeah, it’s you know you’re communicating that that’s multilayered communication right? There like you’re communicating when you’re available and then when you are available truly listen.

Scheduling Time to Listen

Kristin: Right? Yep exactly and then this one kind of piggybacks off of that one but making the time to listen so listening to their stories or their concerns. So very similar to 1 above. But maybe it’s actually scheduled. And we’ve talked a lot about this I think we talked about this one a lot during our mom guilt episode with like quality time versus quantity of time and you know you do have to find what balance works for you but where you can fit in that even if it’s just 5 minutes of just quality time with your child listening to their stories their day asking them how their day went anything that was hard today. So really just spending that time with your child or children and trying to separate them out if you can if you can’t that’s okay, maybe we do it together. But I think it’s really important in order to foster that bond and build that relationship that we’re talking about um to make sure to. Carve out a little bit of this time each day.

Integrate Fun

Angela: Yeah, absolutely I think that goes and actually rolls nicely into the next one too when you are spending quality time together. Try to see if you can integrate fun. You know our lives are so scheduled kids these days with the extracurriculars and the homework and the sports and work and everything on our end many times. It’s hard to be um, intentional about weaving fun in together and we do that so that we can really fortify our relationships with our kids we’re pairing ourselves with something that’s fun when we think of fun time or when we think of time with our kids. You know we’re thinking about how they’re associated with fun right? So don’t forget to infuse the fun when you’re spending time together. Um, you mentioned do something special with each kid if you can’t I love I know you guys do that try to do this too. We try our best to spend someone 1 and 1 time with our kids but not even that. But maybe it’s also you have a funny inside joke with 1 particular kid or you have a special handshake, or my older daughter and I always have this um these dance moves that we do together. There’s like several of them together in this little choreograph dance and doesn’t matter what the song is all the songs seem to fit this certain. You know this chain of dance moves. It’s great and then I have something else. You know that I do with my younger child. We have these different songs that we sing together. So um, yeah I mean just what are some fun ways that you can bond together. Don’t forget about the fun times.

Kristin: Yeah, so important and I think along with that kind of recognizing your behavior as a parent. You know we’re always like you I think you said we’re not as intentional or oh no, we’re overscheduled. That’s what you said it was kids are just overscheduled. But I think as parents we’re kind of that way too where we’re like just giving out directives and just you know trying to get through the day and so I feel like another really helpful tip will be to be mindful of your praise and your positive statements versus your corrective and your negative statements. So, this is one that I talked to parents about pretty regularly and it’s so easy to get into the okay you know this is you need to do this or this is what you’re doing wrong or to give all of those you know, corrective and negative statements because we know we’re trying to get through the day and those are the things potentially and I’m guilty of this too. These are the things I see and soit’s really helpful if we try to um balance that scale a little bit and praise or increase your praise and your positive statements and make sure you’re doing that more often than you’re correcting.

Angela: Yeah, that’s a good one I love that one and it’s not so much that you just have to be dishing out praise all day every day you know it’s kind of just think about your ratio right? Think about positive or even neutral statements to negative statements. We know literature is pretty clear on this that kids that have behavior challenges or in particular kids diagnosed with ADHD tend to see a higher um a higher level of negative statements. So, their ratio is just different than kids that don’t have behavior challenges and that’s unfortunate and so and that can really impact their self-esteem. So definitely be mindful. Be mindful of that ratio. Yeah so speaking of being mindful. It’s also going to be important to be aware of your nonverbal communication. So, it could be things like gestures or eye contact lack thereof. Maybe your facial expressions eye rolls I know some people tell me oh my gosh I’m terrible at the eye rolls I do it and I’m not even conscious of it. So, these are some things that as we grow older. You can still definitely learn new things right? This might be 1 of those things if you have a goal to work on your parenting and just get better at you know setting a goal for being a parent. This is one of the things that I did a couple years ago is that when I got frustrated with my kids I would   do a lot of like ah size and you know put doing some eye rolls and stuff like that and I realized okay well my kids they are they might start internalizing that they’re looking at me. They’re watching what they’re doing I don’t want them to feel bad about themselves and I don’t want them to start copying more so being me so those are the things that I really tried to be a little bit more aware of just that you know, not even the words out of my mouth but more of those nonverbal cues. So.

Kristin: Yes, it’s so true and they will start copying you. It’s like I think I think I read like a meme 1 time or something that said like I don’t remember what it said but it basically was insinuating like you know I didn’t know I didn’t see my childhood, or I didn’t know what I was like as a child until I had 1 something like that and I was like oh it’s so true, but they will. They’ll copy everything that you say everything that you do and so it is so important to be to be mindful of that.

Angela: Yeah, well I just think about if someone if I was talking to someone and someone just rolled their eyes at me I’d be like what that’s so mean and then you know to think I probably have done that to my kids too. Oh, don’t like that so you know you just got to start fresh each day you can’t beat yourself up over it, these are just little things we talk about quite a bit right? And like goals side goals. What are things that we can do to make little tweaks to be you know to kind of change our parenting for the better.

Fostering Bonds for Effective Communication

Kristin: Yeah, exactly. Okay, so moving into the next one which I think this is where we start to talk a little bit more about growing a relationship and kind of fostering that bond. So, one of the things that we talk with parents about a lot is when do we. Communicate with our kids right? So how do we so that I think the tip here is you know how do we set the occasion for effective communication. So, I always use the give the example of well the time to talk about why homework is not going well is not during homework right? Like that’s not the time to have that conversation like that’s not the time and so I think timing is so important so think about when are you approaching your children or your teens with things right? Anything that you want to discuss when are you doing that and are you being mindful of other setting events like is your child tired, hungry, or particularly upset, or are you tired, or hungry, or upset right? So, it’s always important to think about that and the other the other piece to this which I don’t think we actually talked about during prep for this is. Sometimes for families. It’s helpful to actually schedule out that communication time. So, I know we’ve mentioned it before on a podcast but at some time during the week it could be a Tuesday evening because that’s when you don’t have anything planned or a Sunday night right? So, coming up with a time that you set aside to really have these types of conversations. So, what went? Well, this week what went poorly this week how can we improve next week right? And so, you’re really just setting the occasion and your kids know. Okay, this is going to be the time that we’re going to have it’s there. It’s on the calendar and we’re not catching them off guard.

Angela: Yeah I like that I love that I’m glad you mentioned too about not just making sure that you avoid bringing up touchy subjects when the kids are maybe angry or upset but also ourselves too because that’s really easy to just you know to have a short fuse and then you’re maybe not communicating effectively or not the way that you want to and so you have to be that’s a good example of self-awareness as well.

Kristin: Um, yeah, yep, yeah and impulse control right? Being able to control that impulse of like I need to just get this out, but then maybe you’re taking a step back and you’re reflecting and you’re thinking Okay maybe this can wait until later. Right? And then we can talk about it later.

Modeling Good Communication

Angela: Yeah absolutely so getting into the next one we touched on this a little bit before in some of the previous tips but modeling good communication. So important I like to draw in the example of taking responsibility and making apologies so taking ownership for when you’ve made a mistake. Maybe your kids are getting an opportunity to hear you say that to somebody at the store or oh you know what? I apologize that was that was my bad I’m so sorry I misunderstood that something like that. Um, maybe also practicing it to your kids too right? So, I’m sorry didn’t communicate that clearly to you I know that you thought that we were going to the park after school I maybe I miscommunicated that I’m sorry or I’m sorry that I raised my voice. That’s an important one too. So sometimes I think that as parents we’re wanting our kids to be respectful of us and you know and so on and so forth, but we this is I think especially in this day and age too. It’s totally okay and encouraged to respect our kids too right. And 1 way that we do that is to say that we’re sorry um, which can help build up your relationship but it’s also really, really good modeling. Oh, my parents also can apologize, and they can apologize to me I’m the kid that’s pretty cool right? So, um so yeah modeling good communication. Can go a long way.

Kristin: Yeah, yeah, I love this one I think it’s so important and it kind of veered in my head a little bit because of something that just recently happened that I have to just share because it’s funny. Um, it’s related to this. But as you were saying like um. You know mutual respect I think with between kids and just teaching I’m sorry and all that um, recently I was we have like ah an Alexa in our kitchen and it’s like a one that’s like a screen too. So, the kids can talk to it, and you know it’s got a calendar and all that.  So, um I said something to Alexa I was like Alexa I asked her a question and then she answered me and then I said oh okay, thank you and then parker my oldest goes. Well, you know she is. She’s just a robot. You don’t have to say thank you to her like I was like no, it’s just polite because he’s like questioning it like why are you saying things like she’s a robot and I was like well I mean it’s polite to say. Thank you to anybody that does something nice for you. She answered my questions. So, I said thank you and he’s like oh okay, you know, and I was just like it’s just it was just so funny, and it made me think about like kids are truly always watching you like this was not even he wasn’t even part of this conversation I just naturally said thank you to my device and totally called me out on it

Angela: Did Alexa say you’re welcome?

Kristin: You know I feel like sometimes a couple of the ones I’ve had before I think it she does say like my pleasure or something like that. And this one it didn’t so I don’t know if this one’s just like maybe not I don’t programmed that way.

Angela: Maybe yeah, maybe it cut it cuts off after it gives the response.

Pay Attention to the Words You Use

Kristin: Yeah, but it was pretty funny. Yes, so speaking of mutual respect that really goes into the next one and I think it’s really important to pay attention to the words that we use towards our children and our teens right? And so sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in um, you’re frustrated writing you might say things that might come to your mind but it’s so important to be careful about any sort of unkind words or labels to your children right? So, we just want to be careful about what we’re saying for 2 reasons right one as Angie mentioned before well self-esteem right? We want to make sure that we’re um, helping their self-esteem and not hurting their self-esteem. But then also remembering that kids are going to repeat what they hear and so potentially they could use those unkind words and they might use them at school or with their siblings or and it’s going to. You know it’s going to get them into trouble.


Angela: Yeah, absolutely that actually goes perfectly into the next one they may use those kind words back on you. So while we say that mutual respect, apologizing to your kids is really is really important, especially you know the reason I mentioned that too is back in the day you know it was that old saying um, kids should be seen not heard or something like that you know like that’s that is so we are so far away from that now and this day and age right? So, kids are more emboldened to say things and so on and kids should be you know, um, seeing respect and feeling respected by others and their parents. But you know there is a line right? So, we don’t want to be hearing negative bad comments or unkind words from our kids. But sometimes those things might happen. You might have a teenager that says I hate you or a little toddler that says you’re you look fat right? Um, yeah, and so in those cases we want to be able to teach our kids when it’s appropriate when it’s not, but we want to make sure that we’re not taking those things personally right? So, there’s a line there. There might be a teachable moment. We want to explain that those sort of words are not nice and they’re hurtful, but trying to take to try not to take those things personally, especially if you feel like you might be reactive and then you might shoot back and comment too because that I think that’s a different dynamic right? When a parent is saying unkind words, or something mean back to their kids that can be really damaging so try not to take the things that your kids say personally or to heart try to. Have a mature reaction to it and maybe later on is the time where you have a discussion about it when you’re able to keep your emotions in check and then you can have a productive communication about it.

Kristin: Oh, this one hits home Angie this one hits home so hard for me because my 4-year-old, she’s actually gonna be 5 on Friday yeah, Kiki’s gonna be 5 on Friday yeah, so this one she she’s my really just she’s just emotional and she says some really mean things and I’m like I don’t even know where you got that from but her most recent is if I tell her? No, she’s like you are mean mommy. You know and sometimes I mean I don’t lash out back right? I normally say okay you know because I know that me responding and reacting will get me nowhere. Um, but you know it’s I can so I can empathize with parents when they’re like you’re mean too. You know when you just want to like bam like throw it right back there. But um, where you can avoid doing that because it’s you know it’s not going to it’s not going to help the situation at all and so for us over here. You know it happens she doesn’t say she doesn’t get that extra lollipop. She’s looking for right and she tells me I’m mean, and I just say okay you know, and we keep moving on and then later at bedtime you know we give hugs and snuggles and she’s like I love you and I’m like I know I love you too. Right? So, I feel like it’s I like it I like what you’re saying Angie in that tried or out to react um and same thing for the teenagers. Let me just say 1 more thing on this. But for teenagers I actually tell parents all the time if you’re a teenager and of course it’s going to be like what you’re comfortable with as a parent right? But I say all the time if you’re a teenager like rules their eyes or huffs and puffs and stomps at you but they’re doing what you asked them to do then? Maybe we don’t address it in that moment, and we just say oh okay, they’re mad but they’re doing their homework right? I ask them to do their homework and they’re doing it. So maybe we don’t go you know, go toe to toe with our team at that time. So, it’s a hard one to do, but I think it’s ah it is important.

Angela: Yeah, it’s that’s a good point too. It’s kind of you’re integrating somewhat of a judgment call in there because you could be instigating something, or you could hey don’t do that you know but blah blah blah but and then they may be trying really hard to hold it in and be respectful and just kind of do a little bit of a somewhat unnoticed kind of eye roll or something as a as ah a form of protest. Ah, but they still do it. But yeah I mean if you’re communicating anger that that might push them over the edge and then you go into a full-on fight and so yeah, this is this is tricky, but I think in the end not taking what your kids say personally try to be the bigger person. You are the adult you are the person that’s supposed to be helping to model. It’s easier said than done but definitely can come in handy in the future.

Keep Lines of Communication Open

Kristin: Yes, yeah, definitely okay, so moving into the next one here. So, thinking about ways to keep the lines of communication open. Um, and so. This is we talked about here this is kind of where we were saying like we want to have good communication with our kids, and we want our kids to come to us and we want them to tell us things and so we can there are certain ways that we can. We can foster that type of relationship and 1 way that you could do that which as we were prepping for this. We um. We came upon door opener statements, and I was like I love that I don’t know if that’s been a thing I’m sure it is I’m just now hearing about this I usually say like open-ended statements right? Or um, ask questions that require more than yes or no to parents. But um, one way that we can keep the lines of communication open is to use those door opener statements and some examples might be you could say wow, or I see my favorite one that I tell parents to use all the time is oh tell me more about that or that’s interesting which is which is a really good one too. So, there’s many of those that you can use that kind of ah you’re kind of leaving it hanging right? So, your kid is ultimately going to have to give more information. Um I also recommend parents to use this one if they want to gather information about something so they might say something like oh it seems like math was really hard today tell me more about that instead of saying why did you do so poorly in math right? So that there’s a very big difference. There’s a huge difference there and you’re saying the same thing you want to know what happened in math but you’re gathering the information in the less um intrusive way maybe be the way to look at it.

Angela: Yeah, absolutely so I think what you’re seeing here for this one is be deliberate in the words that you use to facilitate more conversation and yeah I notice I try to do that as well I use wow lot or that’s amazing because usually they’re going to say I know and so they continue on and it’s just this statement to communicate to them I’m listening I’m interested and yeah, it’s as opposed to asking a concrete you know, maybe close ended question that could fizzle out or to your point you’re saying something that might make them defensive or could change the tone or the direction of the whole conversation. So just those it’s not even like door. Yeah I guess it is kind of a door opener it or it’s more like a facilitator comment like oh my gosh. Yeah, that’s yeah, yeah, so I like those I like those a lot.

Kristin: Right? Yeah well I think it combats the every everyone says how was school the kids good right? And then you’re like. You know I need to get a little more from you here and so I get that one all the time at my parent consultations. It’s like how do I get more information about school. So, this can be really helpful. Yeah.

Using “Do” versus “Don’t” Language

Angela: Yeah, yeah, the words you use are really important so speaking of the words we use or maybe the words that we want to try to cut out a little bit from our language using do versus don’t language is really important. So, we’re kind of getting back to just some of those basic foundations of communication. So, we talk about this quite a bit. It’s going to be preferred to say what you do want to observe your kid and your kid’s behavior as opposed to what you don’t so if you say something like don’t do that or stop doing that or you know like I don’t know just any sort of like get down from that you know don’t do that. It’s yes, yeah, don’t drop like couch right? So, what do you want them to be doing again instead right? So please sit down on the couch, please come over here. Can you please use a quiet voice in the library as opposed to don’t yell you know so just be mindful of slight tweaks in the way that you’re communicating things could make a big difference because you’re not just squashing a certain behavior and then they’re left well, what do I do you’re trying to redirect them to a behavior that you would rather see instead.

Kristin: Um, yeah, it’s so important because I mean if somebody told you like stop doing that right? And you’re like well. Ah, okay, but what do I do instead right? It’s kind of if you are left hanging. So, I love that if we’re just like killing 2 birds with 1 stone here. We’re like what should we do right? So, we’re correcting a behavior but we’re also telling kids. Well, what should what do I want to see from you instead and I think it just puts more of a positive spin on it right? So, it’s like hey this is it’s gonna over overall I think it just feels more positive too. What it’s like hey sit on the couch. You know it’s like instead of like stop jumping on that couch I’ve told you a hundred times right? So, it’s again, it’s how does it feel thinking about the words that are coming out of your mouth and um, you know your kids are going to understand they’re going to hear that.

Talk with Your Child Not at Your Child

Angela: So yeah, well that that actually segues nicely into the next one and so talk with your child not at your child and this one’s really important and I think this one is so easy to get wrapped into when you want to correct a behavior and you really want to make sure your child understands. Perhaps a mistake they made or something they did wrong in some way right? And we really want to make sure they get it. So, what some parents might do is they just talk and they’re talking too much at their child. They’re not getting any sort of engagement back and forth. So really, you might not be getting very far to be honest, if it’s a teen too. They might have tuned out you know and so later you’re thinking like oh you know how come you did it again like I thought I got through to you but it’s like well maybe you didn’t get through to them in the first place and so if you talk with your child asking for them to acknowledge what you said right? This is one that I talk with parents a lot I say when you gave when you gave that corrective feedback right? Did you ask for them to acknowledge it? Like can you repeat back to me what you’re going to do next time right? And then if you have them repeat it back and then see now it’s more of like a conversation versus you just talking at your child for 5 minutes and then hoping that they hear you.

Angela: Yeah, absolutely oh and the tone really matters.

Kristin: Oh yeah, definitely pay attention to your tone. Yes, for sure.

Using “I” Statements

Angela: Yeah, so we are getting down to the last couple here. 1 thing that’s really important is using. I statements I think sometimes when we hear I statements we think of couples counseling or how do you talk to your spouse or your partner, but you can also use this in your other relationships too like with your kids so instead of saying you know you’re being too loud or you’re being this. Um, maybe it’s you know what? I’m feeling really tired right now I don’t I don’t really feel like playing right now I will let you know in a little bit when I’m ready so just adjusting a little bit the way that you’re communicating could help them better understand the situation right? So um, yeah, just like a little a little tweak gives them little bit more information. It could go quite a long way.

Kristin: Yeah, well and a part of this too I think also from what I’m hearing here is we’re giving a reason right away right? And if we know with little kids you get the why. But why? But mommy why right? I just had a call earlier today where we talked about their two-and-a-half-year-old asking why constantly? Um and it’s you do you get? You get that so you can I feel like you can combat this why here if we’re saying well I’m tired right now I don’t feel it playing but I can play in 5 minutes or give me five more minutes and then I can play um, so I think that that can help with that one too because I was just thinking about a lot of kids they need more information and here you’re just giving it up front.

Angela: Um, yeah, absolutely.

Use Tools to Support Communication

Kristin: Yeah all right? Well, this brings us to the last tip for today. So, this one is use tools to support communication. So, this one I think really valuable for all ages. But think about any kind of tools that you could use to foster some communication between you and your kids or your teens they make all kinds of journals that can be really helpful I found a few really cool mom and daughter journals and there could be like um yeah, really sweet ones. Um, there could be even sibling journals which I know kind of veers a bit for what we’re talking about today, but they make those and so just looking for ways that you can um, communicate in other ways, right? If you’re another example might be social media if your child is on TikTok. For example, your teen is on TikTok and they’re um, that’s the only way that they communicate right? Maybe we communicate that way. Um, or maybe it’s Facebook messenger or whatever it is your kids are using these days right? So just finding ways that you can communicate with them could be text message I know a lot of parents tell me that they text with their kids but just figuring out whatever tools. You can use to support that communication and that way you can continue to grow that bond.

Angela: Yeah I was talking to a parent the other day they had a teen, and they would send funny memes and gifs.

Kristin: Oh cute.

Angela: Just funny text messages or funny um quotes or little clips from some of the comedies that they like to watch together as a family and it’s just kind of a nice funny way to say I’m thinking about yeah I noticed this one I thought you’d like it just ah, a way to again, fortify a positive relationship in the mode of communication that is kind of relevant for your kid or teen at the moment.

Kristin: Well and 1 thing that’s also so very important about that is you’re not always texting or messaging your teen when you want them to do something right? So, like what I’m hearing from that is the same thing as thinking about how often are you praising versus how often are you correcting? It’s the same thing if the only time you’re interacting with them and whether it’s with a tool of communication or even just like verbal communication if the only time you’re interacting. You’re telling them to do something then we need to go the other direction so maybe use one of these tools and have that only be your you know only positive interactions go in there which is exactly like the mother daughter journal right? It’s like only positive stuff. What are we looking forward to and so it’s a great way to do that.

Angela: Oh, I love that that’s a good way to end too I think what I care I characterize that as transactional parenting right? So, you’re the only time you’re dealing with your teen is when you’re dealing with some sort of transaction like you need to do this. You got to get your homework done. Do the blah blah blah whatever it is that said, that could really change the direction of your relationship. So, I love the reminder of hey maybe you’re just sending a funny meme. Maybe you’re just funny sending a joke just for fun to say hey I’m thinking about you?

Kristin: Yeah, no strings attached right? Exactly? Yeah, all right? Well thank you for joining us on our thirty fifth episode of behaviorally speaking on our next episode we will be discussing teaching honesty so that’ll be a good one. Until then don’t forget to subscribe to this podcast on your favorite platform so you never miss an episode.

You’ve been listening to Behaviorally Speaking, with Angela Nelson and Kristin Bandi, brought to you by RethinkCare. Find out more at Rethinkcare.com. You can find past podcast episodes under the Resources tab. We also invite you to subscribe, follow, like, and leave us feedback wherever you listen to podcasts. Your feedback helps us prepare topics and content for future episodes. Until next time, have a great day.

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