I have just finished reading this week’s installment of GOOP’s DO from Gwenyth Paltrow. She interviewed Mary Hartzell, who co wrote“Parenting from the Inside Out” with Daniel Siegel – a must read for every parent! We love how Mary identifies communication as being at the core of effective parenting and creating a strong parent/ child relationship.
“Learning to communicate is at the core of effective
parent/child relationships. Reflective dialogue supports the child in feeling understood and strengthens their core sense of selves. When we are able to listen with an open mind and open heart, our child feels understood even if they are not getting what they want. Respectful communication is very important to develop, because when we have
children, one of the things that we’re doing is we’re essentially telling them who they are. We are giving them an image of themselves, and we want to give them an image of themselves as being confident, capable and lovable.”
Mary Hartzell, Goop January 20, 2011
One of the easiest ways to start a respectful dialogue with another person – child or adult – is to be open and curious. This is a great time to ask instead of tell. Curious questions that begin with: what, who, how, when, are open questions that allow the other person to explain their situation or feelings without feeling judged. Often questions beginning with “why” come across as judgmental/ I know better than you. How many times have you said “not now, I am busy” to a child asking for something, or “stop crying” without knowing what they are crying about, or my favorite “because I said so”, classic parent deflection that just ends up making everyone miserable, angry and upset and never addresses the issue. By keeping our dialogue open and curious, it allows for a respectful conversation enabling all parties to feel valued: seen, heard, and understood, and thus messaging to our children that we feel they are competent and capable.
Here is more of what Mary Hartzell had to say:
“When everyday routines aren’t working well, talk with your children about the problem and include them in a conversation about possible solutions. Ask them what they think would help solve the problem. When we include children in the process of making a plan they are more invested in its success because they have been given the respect of being part of a collaborative problem solving process.
Here’s an example of how you might begin:
What do you think would help us get out of the house on time in the morning because we’ve been late the last three days. It’s just not working. It seems like every morning I’m getting mad and raising my voice and you probably don’t like that. Let’s make a plan so that we can have a pleasant morning and everyone can be ready to leave the house on time. Inviting your child/children to offer some ideas of what they think could help, makes a significant difference. It helps to have an honest conversation with kids about what’s not working, rather than getting angry at the same thing over and over again every morning. Stop doing what isn’t working. Getting angry at our children in the morning is unlikely to have any positive results. When we’re angry at our children, they’ll often defend themselves by getting angry at us. Sometimes children get mad at us because they think we’re going to get angry at them. When both we and our children are defensive, communication breaks down.” Mary Hartzell, Goop January 20, 2011
We love the ‘coaching culture’ communication style Mary describes above, asking your children how to solve the problem and allowing them to be apart of the solution, rather than telling them.
What are you doing with your kids that communicates that they are seen, hear, and understood? How are you inviting them to be apart of solutions? What tools are you using to help ensure your communication with your family doesn’t break down? We want to hear from you.
Check out GOOP to read more of the Mary Hartzell article on Parenting.