- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 10, 2002

Some of the more common errors of communication that parents commit include:

• Phrasing instructions as if they were questions. This implies choice when no choice actually exists.

Wrong: "How about picking up these toys so we can start getting ready for bed?"

Right: "It's almost time for bed. You need to pick up your toys and put them away."

• Phrasing expectations in abstract rather than concrete terms. Using words such as "good," "responsible" and "nice" leaves the parent's actual meaning open to interpretation.

Wrong: "I want you to be good in the store."

Right: "While we're in the store, I want you to walk next to me and ask permission before touching anything."

• Stringing instructions together. The mind of a child younger than 5 has difficulty holding more than one instruction at a time. With children older than 5 but younger than 12, it's best to give no more than two instructions at a time. If it's not convenient to hand out chores in this patient fashion, give the child a list. If he cannot read yet, use drawings.

Wrong: "Today, I want you to clean your room, take out the garbage, feed the dog, pick up the toys in the den and help me move these boxes into the attic."

Right: "The first thing I want you to do today is clean your room. When you finish, let me know and I'll tell you what comes next."

• Preceding instructions with "Let's …." This is another passive, nonauthoritative form of communication. When you expect a child to do a chore on his own, say so. Don't confuse the issue and open the door for resistance by implying that you're willing to pitch in.

Wrong: "Let's set the table, OK?"

Right: "It's time for you to set the table."

• Following instructions with reasons or explanations. Putting the reason last attracts the child's attention to it rather than to the instruction itself. This makes argument more likely.

Wrong: "It's time to get off the swing so we can go home."

Right: "It's time for us to go home now. Get off the swing and come with me."

• Making an instruction into a sales pitch.

Wrong: "Hey, Sissy. Guess what? Mom's cooked a really great supper tonight. Let's say goodbye to Sally and go see Mom's surprise."

Right: "It's time for supper, Sissy. You need to say goodbye to Sally and come inside."

• Giving instructions with an open-ended time frame.

Wrong:"Billy, I need you to mow the lawn sometime today, when you get a chance."

Right: "Billy, I need you to mow the lawn today, and I want you to be finished by the time I get home at six o'clock."

• Expressing instructions in the form of wishes. This amounts to nothing more than passive complaint about the child's behavior. Children don't grant wishes, genies do.

Wrong: "I wish you'd stop chewing with your mouth open."

Right: "Stop chewing with your mouth open."

Source: John Rosemond, "New Parent Power!"


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