They're Not in Your Head
Lisa here. I hope you’ve been using the tips we’ve been providing in our series on communication. Today we’re talking about another common source of miscommunication. Do you ever find yourself getting frustrated because your kids (or partner/friend/coworker/etc.) did not do the thing they “should have” done?
Many times, we fall into the trap of expecting people to do things or do them a certain way because we’ve asked them to do it before, they’ve seen how we do it, or we figure they should already know how to do it. Sometimes we hold others accountable for things that we think, but do not express. Have you ever found yourself saying something like, “They know me, so they should know that’s what I wanted?” or, “I said it last time, they should have remembered”?
We’re all human. Sometimes we don’t fully express what we want and then expect others to figure it out. This frequently happens with parents and their kids, especially when it comes to things like chores or getting permission to do things (e.g., going to friends’ houses, using electronics, etc.). But unspoken expectations are not fair to anyone- to yourself or to your kids. The quick rule of thumb here is: If you didn’t say it, they don’t know it. You can’t really hold your kids accountable for something you didn’t tell them about or fully explain.
It’s okay to feel frustrated, disappointed or even angry when these types of miscommunications happen. But, if you slow down and think it through, you will realize that your child is not responsible for the mix-up. Instead of reacting based on your feelings, take a minute to think through what you actually wanted them to do and whether you explained it to them clearly. If not, the good news is, you now have a chance to fix the miscommunication. If it’s something you know you’ll be asking them to do in the future (e.g., a particular chore), explain that what you’re asking for now is what you will also want in the future. But be aware that the next time you ask, you will probably need to remind your kids how you want it done until they get the hang of it.
Remember, communication is a learning process. When you are the one who wants someone else to understand something, the lion’s share of responsibility is on you. Your kids are not mind readers, so be clear in what you want. It also doesn’t hurt to check in to make sure they actually understood you. Making sure you communicate what you want and not expecting your kids to be in your head with you will lead to fewer misunderstanding, less frustration and smoother communication for you and your kids.
Sarah here. We hope that you enjoyed last week’s blog on the words we use versus the words we mean. This week, we’re again focusing on communication and language. This time, we’re talking about a particular phrase: “I can’t do it.”
As a parent, you may cringe or feel saddened when your child says “I can’t do it” before they even get started. After all, as parents, we encourage our children to try new things, to persevere and finish things, even when they’re difficult.
But, what about you? Take a moment to think about it. Do you ever say “I can’t do it” before you even try something? If you’re like most of us, you probably say this phrase at least some of the time. But, when you say, “I can’t do it,” what do you really mean? Do you mean you literally are incapable of doing the thing? Or do you mean you don’t want to do it, don’t enjoy it, aren’t good at it, don’t feel confident about doing it, haven’t done it in a while, it isn’t a convenient time to do it, you’d rather do something else, etc.? My guess is there are probably times that you say “I can’t do it” and that’s exactly what you mean. There are probably more times that you say “I can’t do it” but you really mean something else.
Why does this matter? Remember that how we talk about ourselves can reflect how we think about ourselves and vice versa. If we say we can’t do something, we’re likely to believe it’s true. How we talk about ourselves also impacts our actions. If we say we can’t do something, we’re less likely to give it a shot. And remember that as a parent, you’re constantly modeling behaviors and self-talk for your family. Kids pick up on what we say and how we act- even when we don’t think they’re watching and even when we aren’t intending to be a role model.
Bottom line: what we say and how we say it matters. Be mindful of the words you use. Avoid saying “I can’t” unless it’s what you truly mean. And don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and try something new or different! You’ll show your family that it’s okay to try new and different things.
What's That Supposed to Mean?
Lisa here. We hope you’ve been using the tips from last week’s blog to start separating your thoughts from facts. This week, we’re talking about another issue that we see frequently- communication. Communication issues arise in all kinds of relationships- families, romantic relationships, friendships, workplace relationships, acquaintances, etc. One problem that causes A LOT of stress is using words that don’t accurately convey what you mean. We all do this from time to time, but depending on the situation, it can cause real problems.
Have you ever given your kids instructions and then they don’t follow through? One common issue that parents and their children often have is how instructions are (or are not) implemented. Picture this: It’s Friday evening and you tell your child to make sure that they clean their room tomorrow (Saturday). Saturday morning comes and goes, Saturday afternoon passes and there is ZERO PROGRESS on the room. By dinnertime on Saturday, you are furious that the room is not clean, so you yell, give a lecture, take away electronics, etc. (whatever consequence you give when your kid doesn’t do what you told them to do). Then your kid throws a wrench into the whole works- they tell you that they planned to clean their room before they went to bed, and they don’t understand why they’re in trouble. Now what?
If you’re like most of the parents Sarah and I work with, you’re not buying this. But let’s look at what actually happened. In the above scenario, you told your child to clean up their room on Saturday. Your child heard that and made their own plan for how and when they would do that. Is the problem that their plan wasn’t great? Nope! The problem was that you did not actually mean that they had all day on Saturday to clean their room. You really wanted them to get up on Saturday morning and clean, not sleep in, play with friends, play video games, take a nap, eat dinner and then clean their room. But that’s not what you said. You said they needed to clean their room on Saturday. Your words left it wide open for your child to decide when on Saturday to complete the task. You had an implementation plan in mind, did not communicate the plan, but then held your child to the plan you had in your head. Sound familiar?
This type of miscommunication frequently happens between parents and their kids when parents expect kids to be in their head. We all have our own way of doing things. It’s easy to expect others to do things the same way, especially when they live in the house with us and see how we do things all the time. It’s important to remember that your kids also have their own way of doing things that doesn’t always fit with what’s in your head.
When you realize one of these miscommunications has happened, you can fix it. Stop for a second to figure out where the communication went wrong. Think about what you actually want the other person to understand and/or do. Then use words that clearly communicate that. Practice using clear and concise language to communicate exactly what you mean. When we don’t expect the other person to read between the lines or read our minds, communication becomes a whole lot easier. Try this out with your family and see how much easier it is to be understood.
Feel free to peruse our blog and see what Sarah and Lisa had to say about topics related to your needs as a busy parent. We will talk about everything from parenting values, to life hacks, to realistic self-care.
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