Hear the Message

social distancing with kids

As adults we are accustomed to a certain type of communication. Usually, it involves spoken word and it’s fairly civilized. That’s not always the case when it comes to communicating with our kids. 

Our children are still developing the ability to regulate their emotions and tolerate frustrating circumstances. The result is that often they communicate with more emotion than we are used to as adults. Kids get louder and more excited. Kids often get angrier and yell more. They get sad and cry more. 

These big emotions can be very triggering for us as parents. And what happens is that we get upset about the way our child is communicating and we completely lose sight of the message they are trying to get across. And when we miss the message, things tend to escalate. Things tend to spiral. 

As adults, we are accustomed to a certain type of communication. Usually it involves spoken word and it's fairly civilized, but that's not always the case. When it comes to communicating with our kids, our children are still developing the ability to regulate their emotions and to tolerate frustrations.The result is that often they communicate with more emotion than we're used to as adults. That means kids get louder and more excited than we do. They also get angrier and they yell more and they get sad and cry more. These big emotions can be very triggering for us as parents. And what happens is that we often get upset about the way that our child is communicating to us. Remember the age old, I don't like the way you're talking to me. Well, what happens is we completely lose sight of the message that our kids are trying to get across. When we get caught up in the fact that we don't like the way the message is being delivered to us. And when we miss the message and get caught up in the delivery, it's not uncommon for things to escalate for things to spiral, for power struggles to emerge. So today we're talking about how to really listen to both the spoken language of our

Children and the behavior of our children. The latter often speaks louder of the two. Hi, this is Denaye. I'm the founder of Simple Families. Simple Families is an online community for parents who are seeking a simpler more intentional life. In this show, we focus on minimalism with kids, positive parenting, family wellness, and decreasing the mental load. My perspectives are based in my firsthand experience, raising kids, but also rooted in my PhD in child development. So you're going to hear conversations that are based in research, but more importantly, real life. Thanks for joining us. Hi there. I want to first start by thinking our sponsor for today. Prep Dish, my family and I have been loyal to practice for several years now. Prep Dish is a meal planning service. If you've

Never, I used a meal planning service. This is how it works each week. I get a PDF sent to my email and that PDF is in three parts, a grocery list, a prep day list and a dish day list. So I take the grocery list and I add a handful of other things that my family needs for food throughout the week. Then I get my groceries and we move on to part two, which is prep day. My husband and I team up and work together to do the meal prep for the week. I prefer to do the super fast menus and it takes us about an hour after that we stick it in the fridge and it's good to go on dish day when the food is actually served, it only takes 10 or 15 minutes to get the meal on the table. Having these meal plans already done for me, reduces so much of my mental load each week when it comes to meal planning and having the meal prep done reduces that dinnertime hustle and stress in the evening hours.

So try it. I think you're going to love it. Go to prepdish.com/families to get two weeks free and try it out. Go to prepdish.com/families. All right, I'm happy to be back. I took a couple of weeks off. We went on vacation and now we are home preparing to move into a new house. My husband and I talked a little bit about downsizing earlier this spring in episode 251. That's simplefamilies.com/episode251. So we sold our house and we downsized to a rental. We've been in our rental just under a year now. And we found a permanent home right down the street. So we're really only moving five houses down and we're really excited about it. I wanted to give you a heads up that later this month, September 15th, I'm going to be doing a special offer on the Simple Families foundations program.

If you've been thinking about joining, ready to simplify your parenting and simplify your home, put that on your calendar, you can go to simplefamilies.com/foundations to learn more about the program and starting on September 15th, there'll be a discount and some special bonuses. So back to today's episode, let's talk about communication from our kids. I first started thinking about this last year when the black lives matters movement was delivering some particularly emotionally charged messages. And there were many, especially people like myself with white privilege who had a really hard time hearing those messages because of the way that they were delivered because of how emotionally charged those messages were. I heard a lot of people saying, well, you just ask nicely, can't you just say it a little bit more kind and whatever, what happened was in the process, because we didn't like how the message was being delivered. The message got lost. And when you're a messenger, trying to deliver your message and your message gets lost, you're going to feel frustrated. And I got to thinking about how this applied across marginalized communities and how it applies to the way that we listened to the messaging from our children. So that's what we're talking about today, exploring this idea in terms of parenting and our children, all adults deliver emotionally charged messages from time to time.

But our kids,

Because of their developmental stage deliver emotionally charged messages, what seems like almost constantly, why can't they just say what they mean and mean what they say right. Their communication is often charged with emotions and some covert messaging. Sometimes we miss the overt intended message. Like when they scream, I want a banana and you feel triggered and scream back. Don't scream at me. You are so rude. You can't talk to me like that. And then suddenly this went from a snack request to your child, running off in tears, slamming doors. Most of us, probably all of us have gotten caught up in the way that our kids deliver messages to us. And it prevents us from hearing the whole message and often causes things to spiral and escalate. Maybe you have a child that runs off in tears, slamming doors, like that example. Maybe you have a child that just stands there and screams back at you and starts this back and forth power struggle.

And before you know it, what started as a request for a banana? You're now arguing about a vase that they broke two years ago when they were throwing a ball in the house. This is what I mean by spirals. It started as one thing and quickly went off the rails and became about something else. The hard truth is that our kids are still developing their ability to regulate their emotions. They still have shorter fuses than we do. They still have lower frustration tolerances. That's a typical part of child development as their brains are still growing. And let's be honest as adults, we aren't in complete control of our emotions either. We still get a short fuse on some days, maybe most days. So I'd like to say that our kids are going to outgrow this, but as most of us know, it's probably never going to happen a hundred percent, but it will get better.

So you might say, okay, Denaye, what do you do with this information? I've just normalized, big emotions and childhood. So why is this helpful to hear, because you need to stop blaming yourself for not raising your kid right, or messing up this whole parenting thing. By understanding that in many ways, these big emotions are a normal part of growing up. You'll be less triggered when your kids have these big emotions, you'll have more empathy. And you'll be more understanding about the why, why this happens. If you have more empathy and you're less triggered, you're going to be able to prevent many of these situations from escalating and spiraling. Not all of them don't get me wrong, but many of them. So let's get back to that. Screaming. I want a banana instead of feeling triggered by your rude kid and thinking about all the ways that you must have really botched up this parenting thing by raising a kid who talks to you like this, just listen to the message and then use your words to reflect back what you want them to say next time, or give them a chance to self-correct.

Here's an example that I would use with a younger kid. Wow. It sounds like you're really hungry. You want a banana, let's go together to get one, using a calm voice and acknowledging those feelings, acknowledging that you really heard the message. You understood what they were trying to say. As they get older and their language becomes more developed. We can ask them to try again and self-correct wow. It sounds like you're really hungry. Can you try that again? An older kid can catch themselves and rephrase it. Hey mom, can I have a banana? They won't always get it right on the first go around. Especially if they're a little bit hangry or maybe they've had a long day, but what if we gave them a chance to try again without shame by calmly saying, wow, it sounds like you're really hungry. Can you try that again?

Now your tone can make a world of difference here. Had I said, excuse me, it sounds like you're hungry. Can you try that again? Well, that might've escalated. That might've turned into a power struggle because I'm using my words and my tone to communicate my power. So instead of trying to communicate our power, trying to communicate that we're listening, we hear them and we're calm. We're modeling what we want to see from them. Now, if you have a kid that gets tripped up, when they're trying to self-correct, you can offer an example. How about next time? Can you try to say, Hey mom, can I have a banana and model that for them? Here's another example I had recently, I was putting my daughter to bed and she was pretty upset, kind of felt like it came out of nowhere. And she said, you never play with me.

So I had literally just finished sitting with her for 30 minutes doing this Perler beads thing. And my first instinct was maybe I should argue with her. I could argue the validity of her statement and give evidence to prove her wrong because I had just sat with her for 30 minutes playing with her. And I think that natural tendency of wanting to go there is because I felt triggered, you know, the statement you never play with me in some ways said to me, good moms play with their kids. So you must be a bad mom because you don't play with me enough. That was the sentiment that I kind of read into that. But instead of reading my own emotions into this, I'm really going to try to listen to the message and her emotions around it. What she said was you never play with me.

But what she's really saying is that she needs more connection. So instead of responding with an argument and evidence that I do in fact, play with you, I'm listening to the message reading between the lines a little bit and instead of taking it. So literally you never play with me. I'm understanding this as her asking for more connection. And I say, it sounds like maybe you're feeling lonely. Would you like a hug? When we remember that our kids are still growing and developing, we can slow down and we can have more empathy for them. And for ourselves as a result, we'll feel less triggered. Remember that we're teaching them and as adults, if we can really listen to the message, we can sometimes maybe even often prevent these situations from spiraling and escalating. So what if we looked at our job in these situations as helping them to refine the message and the feelings without bringing shame?

Sometimes they're saying one thing, but that's only part of the story. And remember it because their language is still in development and their emotional regulation is still in development. They often can't put all of those feelings into words properly. So there does in fact feel like some mind reading that needs to be done here. So I challenge you today to try to hear the message, even if you don't like the way that it's being delivered, if you can stop and really hear the message, can you prevent things from escalating, from spiraling? If you don't like the way that the message is being delivered, can you calmly reflect back the way you want it to be delivered? Because saying, don't talk to me like that is only telling your kids what not to do. It's not teaching them how to say it instead. They're going to need lots of chances to practice lots of chances to make mistakes. And so are we thanks so much for tuning in, I hope you've enjoyed this episode and I'll chat with you soon.

Denaye Barahona

Denaye Barahona is a loving wife and mama of two. She's a therapist for moms, an author, and the host of the top-ranked Simple Families Podcast. Denaye holds a Ph.D. in Child Development and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has been featured on the likes of The Today Show, Netflix, The Wall Street Journal, Real Simple, Forbes, and numerous other media outlets.