More Effective Communication with Children -
Robert Elias Najemy
A CHILD WANTS TO GO TO THE MOVIES
A child keeps pleading to be taken to a movie, but has not cleaned up his room
for several days, a job, which he agreed to do.
What might be an average type of communication? An average parent may call the
child lazy, irresponsible and inconsiderate.
An I-message in this case might be something like this:
"My child, sit down. I would like to express to you how I feel at this moment.
There is conflict within me: on the one hand, I love you and want you to be
happy. I want you to be able to enjoy that which makes you happy. I would like
to take you to the movies, so that you might enjoy yourself. On the other
hand, I feel cheated and that an injustice has been done, because we have made
an agreement that you would clean your room, and you have not kept it. That
makes me feel that you are not respecting our agreement and my need for your
room to be clean.
"I also have another need, which is to feel that I am bringing you up in the
proper way. When I see that you are not taking your word and your
responsibilities seriously, I have doubts as to whether I am doing a good job
and whether you will be able to function well in society, if you are not
keeping your word. So I cannot bring myself to take you to the movies until
you keep your word and clean up your room".
The parent may then lead into active listening with something like, "How do
you feel what I have just said to you? Does it seem fair? Do you feel hurt?
Would you like to talk about it?"
Also, the parent may take this opportunity to discuss with the child the
factors that have prevented him from cleaning up his room.
"From the fact that you have not cleaned up your room, I get the idea that you
do not like to do that job. Is there some special reason for that? Do you feel
that it is unfair that I ask you to do that? What do you think would be a fair
way to handle this situation? Have you some suggestions as to how we can
overcome this source of tension between us?"
I can hear some parents who are reading this saying to themselves, "My child
will never understand these explanations". My personal experience is that any
child over two years old can understand the intent behind this communication
and will feel the parentıs respect, love and concern through it, and will feel
the same for the parent.
THE BLARING STEREO
A child is playing her CDıs so loud that the parents in the next room cannot
communicate with one another.
An angry parent may likely say, "Canıt you be more considerate of others? Are
you deaf? Why do you play that so loud?"
Would we talk that way to our neighbors if they were playing the music that
loud? Would we talk that way to our colleague, our boss or our friends? Do we
have the right to speak demeaningly to our children just because we think they
belong to us? Imagine how you would politely communicate with a neighbor who
was playing music loudly (especially if he is physically bigger than you are).
Remember that the key to effective communication is that we neither suppress
ourselves nor the others. We respect both our needs and those of the others.
So, we are not going to put up with the music, but neither are we going to
hurt the otherıs feelings.
An example in this case might be as follows:
"Maria, could you please turn down the music for a moment? I would like to
tell you something which is very important to me. I have conflicting needs. My
need for you is to be happy and not to feel suppressed. I also do not want to
be in a state of conflict with you because when I am, I do not feel at all
well; and neither do you.
"On the other hand, I cannot tolerate the high volume which you were just
playing your music. Your father and I are trying to talk in the next room and
we cannot hear each other because of the music.
"I also have the need not to bother the neighbors, just as I would not like
them to bother us. I would like to keep up good relationships with them. I ım
afraid that the loud music may be bothering them. For that reason I ask you to
please cooperate on this matter and play the music at a lower volume or
perhaps you could wear headphones and enjoy the music at the volume you
prefer, while we have peace".
Then the parent might want to lead into active listening as to how the child
feels about that message. "How do you feel about what I ım asking you to do?
Do you feel suppressed or unhappy? I hope we can find a way for both of us to
be happy. Tell me your feelings".
This method of communication is much more likely to encourage willful
cooperation from the child, while respect between parent and child is mutually
Although we feel great love for our children, we are often unable to
communicate that love, because of a lack in communication skills. We mean
well; but our own problems and fears get in our way and disrupt our
communication with our children.
If we care for our bodies and minds,
they will care for us.
(Robert Elias Najemy's recently released book "The Psychology of Happiness"
(ISBN 0-9710116-0-5) is available at
His writings can be viewed at
http://www.HolisticHarmony.com where you can also download FREE
articles and e-books.)