Parents wear many hats, don’t they? Off the top of my head I thought of teacher, coach, nurse, chef, taxi driver, librarian, janitor, and referee.
We often put the referee hat on to break up squabbles between the kids. Usually one of them will often say something unkind or rude to the other and it turns into a big conflict. I’ve found that it’s often not necessarily what they say, but how they say it. Or it’s the eye roll or slumping down on the couch that comes along with what they say that can cause issues.
A big part of teaching our kids about manners and relationships is teaching them about communication nuances, like tone and non-verbal communication. Let’s chat through three important areas we can teach our kids about:
When one of my kids is mean or rude with their tone, I’ll often repeat it back to them and provide them with an alternative tone that helps them understand the difference.
“YOU dropped the snacks and made a BIG mess!” is different than, “You dropped the snacks and made a big mess.” The tone affects the meaning of the words, doesn’t it?
Once they understand the difference tone makes, we can ask them to repeat their statement, but in a kinder tone of voice. We can model this as well because we know that sometimes mom and dad have moments where they don’t use a kind tone either.
Sometimes I think eye contact is a lost art, but thankfully, it’s a skill we can work on. We can model good eye contact with our kids by putting our phones away or turning off the screens. Eye contact shows the other person that we’re actively listening, that they’re important. A lack of eye contact can mean that a person isn’t really listening, they’re distracted, afraid, or lacking confidence. We can practice eye contact in various scenarios, but the most important place to begin is at home.
Similar to eye contact, body language can display feelings and attitudes of another person, even though they’re not saying anything. Non-verbal communication is still communication. We can help our kids practice sitting up straight, uncross their arms, or halt distracting fidgeting. It’s not always going to be easy, but practice makes progress! When we catch our kids sulking as we correct them, or we see them slumped down in their chat at dinner, we can kindly point it out to them.
We can also make a people-watching game of it and discreetly observe the body language of other people at school, the grocery store, or the park. Find someone whose body language would make a good object lesson and ask your kids what the other person is communicating.
The next time you find yourself with your referee hat on, you may just find that you can turn the conflict into a coaching moment about these communication nuances. Thankfully we don’t have to change actual hats, right?