Connect Before Correct

Contributed by Jody McVittie, MD

Do you sometimes sense that you are just not getting through to your child? He or she just isn’t listening? How about trying an experiment:

Try Connecting Before Correcting
Kids who feel “felt” are much more likely to be able to work with you instead of against you. (This is not about negotiating, but instead about leadership with connection.)
Connect by acknowledging feelings: “It seems like you feel ____ because ____ and you wish _____.” (Then be silent listen!)
Connect by meeting your child calmly and at eye level: “I notice(d) that_____ and it is time to______. For example, “I notice that you are still playing video games and it is time to set the table.”
Connect by sharing what you heard first, then offering choices: “I hear that you don’t want to ______ and feel_____. You could _______ or you could___. For example, “I hear that you don’t want to load the dishwasher and feel annoyed. You could load the dishwasher or you could trade jobs with me and empty the kitty litter, and I’ll load the dishwasher. (Note that for this to be effective the choices must be respectful to you and the child.)

Hints for connecting:
Connect by appreciating: “I enjoy playing with you.” “Thanks for your help with cooking, it made my day easier.”
Connect by spending special time: Time that is child directed where he/she has your undivided attention.

Hints for correcting:
Stay calm, kind and firm: Be willing to follow through even if it invites your child to be disappointed.
Keep responsibility where it belongs: I notice that you haven’t done your homework. What is your plan?
Dignity always wins: Sometimes it seems that kids won’t “obey.” From the child’s point of view, obeying often involves a loss of dignity. Find another way to get cooperation instead being the child’s boss. It is less WHAT you say, than how you say it that can invite the sense of rebellion (in order to maintain a sense of dignity). You are still the leader of your family – this is not about negotiating… it is about leading effectively.