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LEARN TO TALK RIGHT! PART I

It only takes a newborn four years to completely master the syntax and grammar of language. However some grownup parents never figure out how to talk to a child.

Here is the Heins Crash Course in two parts entitled, “How to Talk to your Child”

COMMUNICATE YOUR EXPECTATIONS

Communicate your expectations to the child. Children are not mind-readers.

Start early with what I call “parental propaganda” (“We don’t hit!” or “We don’t take toys away from other children!”).

As the children grow older, your communicated expectations will get more explicit and more complex but should always be couched in terms the child can understand.

Expectations are not lectures or sermons. You are your kid’s parent, not a professor or preacher

KEEP YOUR VOICE DOWN!

Children tune you out when you yell or scream. Often the louder you talk the less attention children pay. The less attention the kids pay, the louder you yell until everybody is frazzled. There’s a better way. Lower your voice. Speak so softly that your child strains to hear.

One trick: when you FEEL like screaming, is precisely the time to take a deep breath and lower the decibels.

DON’T TALK TOO MUCH!

Avoid lengthy scoldings or tirades. The more you rant and rave, the less likely your child is to pay attention.

Try to keep all rules, effective commands, and disciplinary comments to 10 words or less. “The rule is NO HITTING!” is more effective than, “Big boys shouldn’t hit their baby brothers. You’re supposed to love your brother. I’ll have to tell Daddy when he comes home. Blah-blah-blah-blah.”

No question that brevity is better than a lecture or a sermon, so don’t preach to your kids. But it’s OK to have long talks with your children. When they become ready to debate issues, encourage debates over whether students should wear uniforms to school (general) rather than whether your children have to clean their rooms (specific).

Dialogue only works if you LISTEN WHEN YOUR CHILDREN TALK. Model the listening courtesy you want when you talk.

USE “NO!” WHEN YOU MUST

When you have to say “NO!” say it and mean it. Your child should understand from an early age that certain issues are ABSOLUTELY NON-NEGOTIABLE, that parents are the ones who decide this, and nothing the child says or does will change your mind because you are the parent-in-charge. Example: buckling up in the car safety seat.

However, because parents MUST say “NO!” hundreds of times, try to avoid the word whenever you can.

Try to “catch ‘em being good”. Then you can say, “Yes! Jody that was kind of you to give Grandma your seat!”

Turn things around so you can say “yes!”. Instead of saying, “No, it’s too close to lunch for us to go to the park.” say, “Yes, after lunch and nap we’ll go to the park to play on the swings!”

BE SPECIFIC IN YOUR CRITICISM

Criticize the behavior, not the child. “Hitting is wrong. The rule is not hitting!” is far better than ‘What a bad boy you are!

Is this nit-picking semantics? I don’t think so. Because children will do many “bad” things in the course of growing up and because your job is to call them on these you might end up saying “bad boy” a zillion times before kindergarten. Your child would hear this so many times, he’d start to believe it. Better he think of himself as a good boy who did a bad thing and who will try to remember not to do that again.

PRAISE (AND REWARD) GOOD BEHAVIOR SPECIFICALLY

Too often we only react to bad behavior. But try to be aware of what’s going on and what your child is doing, not a passive parent who doesn’t care what’s happening as long as the kids are quiet. It only takes a minute to look in on the scene, recognize that the child is doing something good like cleaning up the toys, and briefly say that the behavior pleases you.

Always make an effort to praise good behavior and make your praise specific.

Specific praise comes in three parts: describe what you are praising (“You put all your clothes away!), tell the child how you feel about what you just described (“I’m so glad you made your room look so nice before Grandma gets here!”), and give the child the word to describe it’s action (That’s being responsible!”).

Use the technique of “Superpraise” when you specifically praise the child in front of another adult. “Grandma, Sara cleaned up her room without being told because she knew you were coming to visit. That’s being responsible! I’m proud of her!”

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