Its Nothing Personal

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“Fine idiot.  Sorry for nothing.”

This apology note from my oldest son is criminal.  It.cracks.me.up.  I mean, look at the paper he used.  Absolutely hilarious.

Don’t take personally the rude things your kids say.  They are experimenting with language and communication as well as the reaction they get from you when they say certain things. Growing a thick skin doesn’t mean letting them get away with rude or disrespectful behavior.  Here are some things we’ve done to promote a culture of kindness at home:

1.  Demonstrate Appropriate and Kind Communication

I hear myself in so much of what my kids say–good and bad.  As the parent, it is important that we model compassionate and respectful speech.  Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Your actions speak so loudly I cannot hear what you’re saying.”  How we actually speak every day influences our children much more than any lecture we give on proper communication.

2.  Insist on Apologies

We all mess up and say things we shouldn’t and that’s okay.  Again, as parents we should model good behavior by owning up when we said something out of line and quickly making up.  Let the kids see you apologize to a spouse for a minor offense: “Sorry, honey, that I was impatient with you this morning at breakfast.  I should have said it more kindly.”  This shows the kids that adults still make mistakes and that we care enough about each other to make it right.

For the kids, we give them some latitude when making apology, within guidelines we have set.  They can choose to do a written apology or a verbal apology.   If the conflict was between two of the children, a parent approves the written apology {“Sorry, Idiot” didn’t make the cut in case you were wondering}  If they choose to apologize verbally, it can be with the whole family or semi-privately. Semi-privately means a parent eaves drops to make sure its done properly. The children are encouraged to take care of their apology as soon as possible, but we allow them to do it on their own time.  The catch is, they can’t move on to what they want to do (play with friends, go outside etc.) until its taken care of.

3.  Don’t Show Shock for the Big Ones

When a kid drops a swear or uses other foul or offensive language, I have found the best approach is to not so much as blink an eye.  This is hard to do because you may be fighting shock but really, half the time they say it to get a reaction and the other half of the time, they don’t even know what it means.  For example the other day, my son said something like, “Can’t you just take the damn box downstairs?!”  I almost burst out laughing.  It was so unexpected and he used it so well in context.  I didn’t really say anything and later we talked about it.  He even asked me if he had used it the right way.  These situations can be entertaining and great teaching opportunities.  “We don’t say that in our family” is a very helpful phrase to have in your pocket.  Turns out it was just something he heard at school and he was giving it a test run.

We’re still working on this every day.  So how do you encourage positive communication in your home?

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