Friday, October 19, 2012

Communication Breakdown

While at the National At Home Dad Convention a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Rene Hackney. She owns and teaches at Parenting Playgroups in Alexandria, VA. She specifically addressed how to manage power struggles and how to help your kids listen better.

She was a great speaker and one that I took lots of lessons home about how you communicate effectively with your kids. My youngest,Heidi, at 22 months is testing these very boundaries everyday. My older kids, Sarah and Adam, at five and seven years old respectively have gotten away from the timeouts so now I have become rusty.

What have a learned over the years? I have learned that you have to act on what you say. Don't give your kids multiple chances. Give them a warning and if they don't follow through then give them a timeout. Heidi is slowly learning that the timeout is not fun but only when I consistently follow through with the warning and immediate punishment.

Dr. Hackney taught me one very important lesson. If you are constantly repeating yourself, YOU are teaching your kids NOT to listen. By repeating yourself you are teaching your kids that even if you give them a warning you are going to say it four or five more times before you really flip out.

She explained that our voices must be assertive and not passive or aggressive. An example of someone with passive voice is someone that begs, pleads or even bribes for good behavior. I have heard people in stores say things like "If you put your shoes on Daddy will buy you a Lego set"

Passive voices often ignore conflict and can ask irrelevant questions like "Why did you take your shoes off?" I do this all the time and can attest that it is a waste of time. Kids aren't going to We also need to avoid the aggressive voice which focuses on the negatives toward the child.

Aggressive voices often use "You" statements or use "always" and "never" to describe the child. For example, if a parent says "You never put your shoes on" you are focusing on making the child feel bad and not focusing on the fact that they are not following your directions.

Of course, there is also the passive-agressive flip which is a common pattern. You may try a very soft approach and when it doesn't work you go into beast mode. To combat this Dr. Rene suggested how to become assertive without being aggressive.

1) Use straightforward statements
It is time now to put on your shoes please
2) Do not repeat
You can still give warnings but must be consistent with time
3) Follow through (respectfully) the first time
4) Give choices only when they really exist
5) Give usable information
6) Own and express your feelings.
It is good for kids to know how their behavior is affecting you

I highly suggest that you visit her website if you are interested in learning more. Visit Dr. Rene Hackney's teachings at
You can also find some of her informative videos on YouTube HERE

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