4 Ways to Improve Communication with Children and Cut the Chaos

As a follow up to my blog yesterday about some tough discipline/emotional challenges in our home of late, I’d like to follow up with a quick guide of simple changes you can make in your home to improve the mood. Again, the resources for this page are numerous, but my Top 3 Inspirations are 5 Empowering Ways to Get Your Kids to Listen from Parents Magazine, Steady Days book and blog, and Your 7 year old child: Emotional Development by Katherine Lee.

  1. It starts with you.
    As a parent, you set the tone for the day. Make sure you are modelling the behavior you are expecting (or demanding) from your child. Take time to make it happen. Pray, read, meditate, exercise, walk away for a timeout of your own when things get rough–whatever it takes. Remember:

    “Our actions demonstrate what we really believe and our kids look at our example when weighing the truth of our words.”-Chris and Michelle Groff of Parenting By Design

    That means if you stomp and yell when you’re upset with them…they will stomp and yell when they’re upset with you.

  2. Reword directions.No one enjoys repeating themselves, and it can be infuriating to have to explain the same basic principle time and again, however, kids need reminders. It is hard to believe it in the moment, but they are not (usually) being willfully defiant, they simply haven’t turned certain tasks into habits. Until they do, expect to be the broken record. A few simple things can turn your frustration into results.

    5 Empowering Ways to Get Your Kids to Listen suggested the following:
    Use one or two-word reminders whenever possible.
    “Plates” versus “It is your responsibility to pick up after yourself after dinner.” Eventually, when the habit has formed the need for even the simple reminders will diminish and disappear (although don’t be surprised if the need pops up again occasionally).
    Don’t lecture, but do state facts.
    This has been the hardest for me, but it is working. Instead of my normal, “Stop yelling at your brother,” repeated to exhaustion with little effect, saying something like, “J even if you are kidding, Cub is smaller than you, so when you yell at him, it scares him and he doesn’t like it,” consistently produces the result I want-No yelling.
    *This may seem like a contradiction to the point above about one-word directions, but the difference is in the intended outcome. Habits= one-word, Instruction/Discipline= state facts.
    State Expectations ahead of time.
    Especially for predictable trouble. “J, Cub, I expect you both to share the markers during coloring time.” Back it up with consistent and appropriate consequences when those expectations are not met.

  3. Set a schedule and stick to it.

    Some children need more structure than others. I habitually forget this about J, who is 7. I tend to believe that I am overly structured and that no one else really wants that, and I project that belief onto him. For better or worse, though, he is my mini-me and needs to know what is coming for his day. I have been lax about this–moving schedules and such to allow for “fun times” and the result has been a complete meltdown at home.
  4. Have weekly family meetings.

    We have never done this before. Family meetings were only for crises and lectures when I was growing up, but a positive family meeting each week keeps everyone in the loop. It reduces misunderstandings and anxiety you may not even be aware of. For example: I keep track of all of the bills, and make sure they get paid, but my husband still wanted to be keep up-to-date. I used to see this as an insult, that he didn’t trust me, but he really just wants to know if we have enough money in the bank, which is perfectly natural. Read more on how to make that happen on

Chaotic times are bound to happen. Upsets to routines and bad moods are unavoidable but having the right plan in place ahead of time can save everyone a lot of time and tears.

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