Discovery Years through Taking Flight - Communication

Q. If my kid is lazy, what's wrong with telling him he's lazy?

A. One problem with a comment like that is that it's unclear. What do you mean by lazy? Is he not cleaning up his room? Does he have bad study habits? Do you think he has a general attitude of indifference? Calling your son lazy doesn't tell him anything about what he is doing wrong or even how to change his behavior.

Q. My son is old enough to know how to clean his room. What's the point of telling him how to do it?

A. If he already knows how to clean his room, and he does a good job, you may not have to. However, specific instructions provide kids with a clear understanding of exactly what you want. If you expect your son to pickup clothes off the floor, dust the chest of drawers and make the bed every time he cleans his room, say so. When you're specific about the behavior you want to see - or not see - your child is much more likely to understand and follow through. If you're unhappy with his cleaning effort, show him how to make the bed (sheets tucked under the mattress) or pick up his clothes (dirty clothes go in the hamper; clean clothes hang in the closet).

Q. How can I correct my kids for yelling at each other when my wife and I yell at each other and them?

A. Make a conscious effort to model good communication skills to your children. It's really hard to change old habits and sometimes you will make mistakes. When you do yell at your wife or children, it helps to apologize. Let your children know that you don't want anyone to yell. Practice with them how you wish you had handled the situation. Breaking the habit won't happen overnight, but if you really try, you and your family will hear improvement.

Q. How do I respond if my son swears at me?

A. Try empathy. Empathy is a statement that shows you understand how he is feeling. For example, you might say, "I know you're upset about not being able to go to your friend's house, but stop swearing and calm down. I'll come back in a few minutes to talk with you."

Q. How do I teach my children not to use drugs?

A. The best course of action is prevention. Teaching your children that they have the power to say "No" is the first step. Show your children how to say "No" assertively when someone offers them drugs, alcohol or tobacco. Here are the basic steps to that skill…

  • Look at the person.
  • Use a clear, firm voice tone.
  • Say "No, I don't want…"
  • Ask the person to leave you alone.
  • Remain calm, but serious.
  • Possibly remove yourself from the situation.

You must also be willing to talk often to your children about the dangers of drugs, keeping the communication lines open. Effective communication means that you're an active listener, too. Your children should know that they can talk to you about any subject, no matter how sensitive.

Q. My daughter ignores everything I say when I correct her. How can I keep her from walking away from me?

A. How do you act when correcting her? If you're angry and go on about things unrelated to the situation, your words can get lost. Try to stay calm and be brief. A calm, positive approach can produce better results.

Q. What can I do when I am pretty sure my child is lying, but I can't prove it?

A. If you think your child is lying, interrupt him or her. Ask your child to think about what he or she is going to say next and to make sure it's the truth. Tell your child that there will be negative consequences for lying.

Q. My child argues about everything I say. She never admits anything, even if I'm very specific, and she lies. What's the point of trying?

A. Don't give up on your child. Just try not to get sidetracked by her arguments or lies when you're correcting her. Deal with one problem behavior at a time. If you are reasonably sure she did something she wasn't supposed to, give her a consequence. Here's a scenario that might help you:

  • State the problem: "Darlene, you came home 30 minutes late and didn't let me know that you weren't going to be on time."
  • Give a consequence: "Tomorrow night you have to be home an hour earlier."
  • Describe what you want: "When you're going to be late, call and let me know. Depending on the situation, you can either stay later if your ride is leaving later or I'll come and get you. But you have to call and let me know that you'll be late. Okay?"
  • Practice what you want: "Darlene, how are you going to handle this situation next time?"

End the practice situation by having your child explain to you what he or she plans to do the next time he or she is running late.