A lesson in communication

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I’ve had a few difficult days, got up the other morning made lunches and ironed my son’s shirts for school because I had been at an athletics day the day before and totally forgot to iron them. My 9yo started complaining that the ironed shirt was no good because he wants to be able to roll the sleeves up at school and be cool!~? He complained that the shirt was too tight to roll up. He was arguing with me and I did not have time to iron another shirt, so I told him if he could iron one without a crease he could wear a different one.

Of course he’s never used an iron so the task was an impossible one but he tried anyway. He plugged in the iron and after a couple of minutes started yelling “I don’t know how”. Then my 8yo started saying what the time is and how he’s going to be late now. Again I’m yelling out “that shirt better not have creases”. Finally he gave in and wore the original shirt that I had ironed in the firstplace and I calmly said to him “I can’t iron a new one, we don’t have time and I’m stressed because I have to do so many things today and the car needs repairing and (this and that) and then you’re adding pressure to iron a new shirt” – he asked a couple of clarifying questions relating to what I had said. I answered them as succinctly as I could. As I turned to walk away he said , “ I’m sorry mum”. It stopped me in my tracks and I turned back and gave him a cuddle and said I was sorry too.

It was amazing how quickly the situation got resolved once there was clear communication and he could understand that I was feeling pressured by circumstances.

Children do understand if we tell them what’s going on in our minds (at a level and appropriateness for them). They don’t understand when we just yell, or get frantic or tell them to do stuff because we’re feeling stressed and out of control.

If they know what we’re experiencing and we can do it without making them feel guilty then they take the opportunity to step up.

We cannot read each other's minds, but we can speak each other's language.


Npamz said...

Thanks for this post. It is so unbelievably true. I welled up with this. I know for a fact, when I am in a hurry and 'holler' at the children the situation amplifies and communication breakdown occurs because child doesn't understand the need to get ready by set time frame. Adult fails to prepare the child with time cues and references to why the need to be ready and get certain things done = stress. The part in your post that really resonated was the apology. As I have found once I've explained my anger, frustration (insert emotion) and the situation - then he understands and the apology that is forthcoming - dead right it stops you in your tracks. Mutual apology all the more important :) It is a great method to explain the emotion or the reasons for stress and not let stress demons take hold (although often hard to do in the heat of the moment).....but none the less all the more important to remember and to try and implement more often. Thank you.

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