Some of the Dad’s that I have been helping in recent months have identified the need to have more harmony in their home life.
They are sick of the lack of cooperation from their children and the nightly battles getting them fed and ready for bed.
One of the keys to cooperation and harmony at home is having a deep connection with your children.
I believe there are 4 things that Dad’s do that not only reduce this connection, but also create unnecessary tension and frustration between them and their children.
The Big 4 Things to Avoid
- Yelling with your body language and tone
Sometimes after a long day at work, you can be so exhausted and frustrated about the events of the day that you have to work so hard to switch off this frustration. You concentrate hard, try to relax so that you stay patient with your kids and try to talk without raising your voice.
What you may not realise is that even though your voice is quiet and you are trying to stay calm, it can still feel to your children that you are yelling at them. They can:
- see the frustration in your eyes and face,
- hear the edge to your tone,
- and they can feel the tension in your body language.
My kids have gotten better at expressing their emotions and they have said to me things like – “Dad, stop yelling!” when it felt like I had made such a massive effort to stay calm and talk with a quiet voice.
I was yelling with my facial expressions and the frustration in my voice was coming out loud and clear.
What to Do Instead
To avoid this scenario, the best thing to do is to:
- take a few deep breathes,
- smile before you speak,
- physically get down to their level (actually crouch or sit down),
- try to deliver the message in a loving and kind tone.
When you do this, your kids will love it and will be far more likely to respond in a positive way. When your words make them feel good, and connected, they will be far more cooperative.
- Asking them to wait but not patiently waiting for them
If you are anything like me, you have to spend a fair amount of time asking your kids to wait. They want you to:
- help with something,
- answer a question,
- see their creation,
- or watch their performance.
And they seem to do it when you are right in the middle of something. And they expect you drop what you are doing and go to them immediately. And we ask them to wait, particularly if what we are doing IS important.
Fair enough too.
The problem often is, when we decide it is time for them to do what we want, we expect them to drop what they are doing and do it immediately. You may feel that if your kids don’t act immediately, jump up and do exactly what you asked them to, then they are being disrespectful and uncooperative. This is where I believe the problem starts.
They think that what they are doing is of the utmost of importance and, even at a young age, they recognise the contradiction.
We ask them to wait but be often neglect to offer them the same courtesy.
What to Do Instead
To create more trust and cooperation, I would suggest giving them a 5 to 10 minute warning before you need them to act, then follow up with a second warning so that they have ample time to finish what they are doing or at least come to a point where they will happily walk away.
This will take some advanced planning from you, but nothing too strenuous. It will also take a healthy dose of patience, empathy and understanding as you help them transition to what you need them to do next.
Sure this takes a little longer, although possibly not longer than if you battled to get them to do it, but with less frustration, more harmony, more kindness and a deeper connection.
- Hearing them but not listening
From my experience, listening is a skill that most people could do with improving, I know I can. Too often, and I am guilty of this myself at times, we are too busy thinking of what we are going to say next to really hear what someone has said. However, when you become an active listener, the dividends are massive.
What often happens with us Dads (and Mums) is that we hear our kids, but we are not fully listening. That is, we are not paying attention to the meaning of what it is we are hearing from our children, or worse still, we anticipate what we think our kids are going to say, cut them off mid-sentence and don’t give them a chance to properly explain.
When kids know that they are being heard, they are more likely to listen to us. They will do as we do, and not do as we tell them to most of the time.
What to Do Instead
The best way to let them (or anyone for that matter) know that you heard them is by being an active listener. That is, by repeating back to them or paraphrasing what they have said. When you do this there can be no doubt that you have heard them and they will love it. They will love getting your full attention and will return the favour.
Also, with your new found patience, when you allow your children to finish what they are saying as much as possible you will find two other very cool things happen:
- You start to learn from them. Young people have wonderful insights into most family situations as they see life so simply. Try asking them what they would do in a challenging situation and you will get some amazing and very effective solutions.
- Once we stop trying to anticipate what they might say and really hear what they wanted to tell us in all situations, we open the door for many crucial moments of connection with our kids.
When a child is allowed to have a voice in the family environment, and that voice is being heard, and their contribution acknowledged, you generally have one happy child that wants to connect and cooperate.
- Simply – we say “NO” too much and don’t say “YES” nearly enough
As Dads we can all be guilty of this one. We constantly say NO to our kids and catch them doing the wrong thing. We will get far better results when we try to catch them doing something right and by looking for opportunities to say YES.
What to Do Instead
People, and especially kids respond best to positive responses. Instead of a constant stream of NO, which frustrates kids (and let’s face it, it would probably frustrate you too), look for ways to say YES.
For example, is what they are asking to do really that big a deal? Your kids will be pleasantly surprised and love you for it, when you start saying yes to something that you usually say no to, like playing with them in the backyard, joining in their favourite game that you usually wouldn’t actually enjoy, or letting them do something that is a bit crazy that won’t actually hurt anyone.
Another technique is to say a “yes” when really you are meaning “no.”
For example, at bedtime you could say: “YES, I understand you are frustrated at me; YES, you don’t feel tired; YES, you still need to go to bed.”
As for what behavior you catch, we humans have a tendency to focus on negatives, and our kids hate it. Watch the smiles and relief as you start catching them playing nicely with their siblings, doing as they are told (even if it is on the 4th request), doing as they are told in a reasonable amount to time, even catch them just sitting quietly in front of the tv.
Your children love attention, good or bad, and this technique helps them focus on the positive behavior to get your attention.
By Ian Hawkins,
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