Decreasing Your Family’s Tension by Changing Your Tone

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  • By Kathy Slattengren.

    When you walk into an office, a store or someone’s home, you immediately get a sense for that place. It might be warm and welcoming or cold and filled with tension. You automatically use all your senses to develop a feeling for a place.If you are a parent, you are a leader in your family. You have the primarily responsibility for setting the tone in your home. How does your home feel? Is it a warm, welcoming place for everyone in your family?

    A Home Filled with Tension

    One mom told me about all the stress in her home. One of her three sons was doing very poorly in school. She and her husband were constantly nagging Joe to do his homework although it didn’t seem to help much. Sometimes Joe even skipped school and they responded by yelling at him and grounding him.

    However, Joe would leave the house even though he was grounded. Home was not a welcoming place for Joe. This family turned things around when they made the tough decision to let Joe worry about his homework and grades instead of them. When they stopped nagging him, he started spending more time at home and he actually began taking more responsibility for his homework.

    Replacing Negative Statements with Positive Statements

    Sometimes parents get in the habit of interacting with their children using negative statements and commands. Read the following statements one dad made to his children and think about how you would feel if you were a child hearing these remarks:

    • “You aren’t going outside until you put sunscreen on.”
    • “Stop messing around with that!”
    • “If you don’t hurry up and get your shoes on, I’m not taking you.”
    • “You’ve already watched too much TV. You should not have turned it on again, now turn it off.”
    • “You’re not eating dinner until you wash your hands.”
    • “You are dawdling and we’re going to be late!”
    • “Stop bugging your sister!”

    How do you feel after reading these statements?

    Let’s look at how these same ideas could be expressed more positively:

    • “Feel free to go outside as soon as you put sunscreen on.”
    • “That could break so you can play with this instead.”
    • “I am leaving in two minutes. I’ll be happy to take you if you have your shoes on.”
    • “Your TV time is up for today. Would you like to turn the TV off or would you like me to turn it off?”
    • “Please wash your hands and then join us for dinner.”
    • “We’re leaving in 5 minutes. Do you plan to be dressed or will you be taking your clothes in a bag?”
    • “Your sister wants to be left alone right now. Do you want to play a game with me or go outside and play?”

    How do you feel now? The words we use make a huge difference!

    Results of Positive Statements

    When we use more positive statements we demonstrate confidence that our children are likely to choose appropriate behavior. If we instead use a lot of nagging, ordering and yelling, we convey to our children that we feel they are likely to mess up if we’re not constantly on top of them – not quite the message we want to send!

    By getting in the habit of positively stating requests, you will make the overall tone of your family more encouraging and optimistic. This is an essential ingredient in making your home a warm, welcoming place for everyone.

    Kathy Slattengren

    Kathy Slattengren, M. Ed., has helped thousands of parents from across the United States to Australia through her online classes, presentations, coaching and books. Parents excitedly report their success in replacing yelling and threatening with calm, confident responses. When your children’s behavior is really pushing your buttons, discover ways to set effective limits, invite cooperation and have a lot more fun together!

    For more information, please visit PricelessParenting.com.

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