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Say NO to communication blocks

May 29, 2015

(Topic 5)

Communication is important—not only with our children, but in every part of our life! In order to get across to others your opinions, wants, and needs, you need communication skills. As parents, it is our job to teach and role model those communication skills to our children, through our actions and words.

There are two ideas I am going to introduce/discuss in today’s blog: Communication Blocks and Active Communication (AKA Active Parenting).

Communication Blocks: STOPS communication—closes the door to open communication. It can occur internally (self-talk) or between people (interpersonal). It is a coping strategy people use when a situation is stressful or needs to be avoided. Do you do that in your key relationships now? Do your kids know how and when to do this yet? (http://sfhelp.org/cx/blocks.htm) Follow that link for 30 Common Communication Blocks.

While those are common Communication Blocks in general, we are also going to focus on the communication blocks we use with our children. But first, why do you think it is important that we try to AVOID these communication blocks—or the stopping of honest/truthful communication between our children and ourselves? …….

Because if we stop it now, while they are young, do you think they will feel comfortable talking to us when they are teenagers and have questions about alcohol at parties, drugs, friends, sex, and the infamous “mean girl?” No, they will remember how mom or dad judged me, or questioned (interrogated) me in the past. They will avoid openly communicating because of the discouragement and hurt they felt in the past regarding topics that are meaningful and important to them as children. So, when you child comes to you about an embarrassing moment, maybe realizing their zipper was down all day, while it may be funny, the first reaction of making fun or laughing at your child is one type of communication block. The kids in their classroom probably had the same reaction resulting in lower confidence, as parents we do not also want to contribute to our children’s low self-esteem. Identifying and empathizing with our children, in most situations, will avoid communication blocks and help release positive chemicals in our child’s brain in relation to us creating a sense of security, trust, and bonding.

So, communication blocks? First thing to remember is avoid them. Second thing to remember is that your three methods of communication must match—your body language, tone of voice, and words must all match in order to get the “correct” message, or the message you want your child to receive, across to them.

Common communication blocks with our children:

Commanding: “What you should do is _____.”

Giving Advice: “I’ve got a really good idea…. Why don’t you____?”

Placating: “Everything will be okay.”

Interrogating: “What did you do to make him_____?”

Psychologizing: “You’re being oversensitive.”

Judging: “Why were you doing that in the first place? That wasn’t very smart to do.”

Sarcasm: “Well, I guess it’s just about the end of the world, isn’t it?”

Focusing on Mistakes: “I don’t think you should have said that.”

Negative Expectations: “Now, don’t blow it this time.”

Perfectionism: “If you got all As, you wouldn’t have to worry about it.”

*Now remember, we have our “go tos” with adults and with our children. Reflect on what you think you may use with other people. What do you think you use most often with your children? What about communication blocks people use with you?

Once we have been able to identify our communication blocks, it is then time to focus on Actively Communicating with our children.

  1. Listen! (Put your phone down, turn the TV off, make eye-contact!)
  2. Respond to feelings (“You sound _____.” “That must have been _____.” And think outside the box— we have more feelings than just happy, mad, sad, and glad. We have lots of feelings—help your child identify their specific feeling.
  3. Help your child think through pros and cons/ alternatives and consequences by ASKING QUESTIONS and not by advising them on what to do. (“What would happen if you did that? Okay, and how would that make you feel? Okay, what is something else you could try? What would happen then?)
  4. Encourage! Encourage! Encourage!
  5. Follow up later (Ask them what decision they decided on and how it turned out.) Let them solve some of their own problems.

Communicate with your children this week. See if you catch yourself using communication blocks. How do you think you could change your communication block into an active conversation?

*Most of this information is taken from the curriculum Active Parenting. However, I have also done my own research and added it in when necessary. I am not marketing Active Parenting nor do I get anything from the sales of Active Parenting. (Michael Popkin, Ph.D., 2014)

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