More Effective Communication with Children -
Robert Elias Najemy
THE DAUGHTER ARRIVES HOME LATE
Although their daughter agreed to be home by 12
midnight, she arrives at 1.30 in the morning. The parents are extremely
worried that something may have happened to her and are quite relieved when
she finally gets home.
What kind of message might they give to the child? They might express their
anger at her disobedience and reject her for being inconsiderate and
irresponsible. They might threaten her and punish her with the hope that she
will obey out of fear in the future.
A possible communication might be something like this:
"Susan, please sit down. We have a great need to discuss with you how we feel
about your coming home at 1.30 in the morning, when we had agreed that you be
here by midnight. We have been extremely worried during the last hour and a
half. All kinds of possible dangers have passed through our minds as we were
waiting for you. We love you very much and would not like any harm to come to
you. We still feel responsible for your health and well being, and would find
it difficult to forgive ourselves if anything happened to you. We would feel
that we had been irresponsible in our roles as parents.
"It is extremely important for us that we come up with a formula with regard
to your evenings out, which would be agreeable to both you and us. We want you
to be happy in your life but also have a need to feel that we are performing
our role as parents correctly and that we are protecting you as well as we
"We also need to feel that we are bringing you up in the right way. When you
do not respect your word, we worry about whether we have failed, as parents,
to teach you to honor your word. We are interested in hearing from you what
happened and why it is that you did not come back by midnight; also, how you
believe we should act in this situation. We would like to hear your
suggestions as to how we can find a formula for future times when you go out.
It is very important for us that we know when you will be arriving and can be
sure that you will be here at that time"
The discussion can then go back and forth as we alternate between I-statements
concerning our feelings and needs and active listening, in which we listen to
the needs of the daughter, until we find some suitable solution.
THE CHILDREN ARE FIGHTING OVER A GAME
When we see our children fighting over a toy, a game, TV program, or any other
object, we feel great inner conflict. We feel that both of our children are
parts of ourselves, so when they are fighting, it is as if two parts of our
own being are fighting. We may feel that we are failing as parents to create
harmony in our home. We may feel guilt for that. We may feel angry towards one
of the children who is acting more egotistically. We may play the role of the
judge and persecutor. We might punish one or both children, without
A possible example of communication might be:
"Children, please come and sit down. I want to express to you how I am feeling
at this moment, as I am watching you fight. Each of you is equally a part of
me. I feel so connected with you that whatever happens to you is like it is
happening to me. When you fight with one another, I feel great inner conflict.
I feel confused. I do not know what to do. I do not want to take sides. I want
you both to be happy. I do not know how to make you stop.
"Maybe you could help me so we may together discover what I could do to help
you. This will be useful for all of us. There will certainly be times in your
lives, in which you will come into conflict with others around you. This will
help us all to see how we can handle such conflicts in a different way. I
would like each of you to think about what it is that you wanted and could not
get from the other, which caused you to get angry and to fight in that way.
"Each will take turns to express what his problem was and we will keep going
around until all of us have said whatever we need to say. I ask that only one
rule be kept: when someone is talking, that we do not interrupt him but let
him conclude that which he is trying to say. If we disagree with him, we can
have a chance later to express it. Now, let us begin".
After each child has had a chance to express his or her feelings and opinions,
and the opportunity to speak has gone around the circle a number of times and
everything has been said, then we can ask for possible solutions as to how we
can structure our lives and routine of living so as to avoid similar conflicts
in the future. All of these solutions can be written down and then discussed.
Eventually a combination of the various ideas can be adopted for a trial run
to see how it works.
This group method of "brainstorming" for solutions to group problems has the
advantage that each person feels that his or her ideas and needs have been
respected in the creation of the solution. Even if our needs are not 100% met,
we feel that at least we have been heard, considered, respected and allowed to
participate. Thus our cooperation will be much greater and from the heart.
Eventually we can close by asking the children how they would like us to act
in such situations, if the children, in spite of their efforts, come into
conflict again for some reason or other.
The basic obstacle towards such a way of handling conflicts between children
is, on the one hand, the lack of time on the part of the parent and, on the
other, the lack of ease the parent feels in handling such conflicts. We must
learn that conflicts are natural in a world in which we all have differing
needs and ways of seeing things.
We tend to avoid talking openly about conflicts, which just makes them recur
more and more often, because they are never brought out into the open and be
solved. Many times conflicts occur concerning superficial or unimportant
matters, when the real problem is about something else, which has never been
discussed. Handling conflicts in this open and honest way gives us a chance to
deal with the real personality problems that are behind these superficial
Communication is a lost art, one which must be regained through practice and
by breaking free from the ineffective patterns which we have learned from our
parents and from society.
Effective communication is a process of being constantly aware of what we are
really feeling and expressing it openly and honestly without blaming the
others for what we feel. The other aspect of communication is to understand
what the other person is feeling and thinking. Without mutual love, respect,
understanding and atmosphere of equality, there can be no effective
I again encourage us all to become more efficient in our communication skills,
to take seminars on communication, in which we can practice those techniques
under guidance. It is never too late to make the change. We might be 70 and
our child 50 and we may still be caught up in the same old ego games we were
40 years ago. We would do well to free ourselves from these obstacles to love
and unity, and thus happiness.
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.)