Parenting Out Loud

“You’re on your computer again,” I said to my teenager. He sighed and said, “Yes Mom, I’m getting off now.” Wow, that was easy, I thought to myself. I had expected him to put up an argument. What secret Jedi parenting mind trick did I just I stumbled upon?

The parenting tools you will discover with me can be described in one word – Practical. In fact, as you read them you’ll realize that many may seem basic or common sense.

Don’t be fooled, common sense is far too often uncommon.

Some of these tools you may already use – maybe only partially, and some perhaps inconsistently. Read through each tool and think about how you may have used it in the past. If they haven’t worked, find out what you were missing so you can make it better and more effective next time.

Your parenting style must change as your child grows. You have the ability to adjust each tool according to your child’s stage in life. Observe what works and what doesn’t. Keep trying different approaches from the tools in your toolbox until you find the ones that work well and more importantly works consistently for you and your child.

My Accidental Discovery – Say What You See

I didn’t realize that just vocalizing what I observed could make a difference. This parenting tool is to simply state out loud what is happening or what has happened.

Let’s say your child frequently throws their spoon on the floor during meal times. Rather than scolding them or picking it up, all you need to do is say, “You threw your spoon on the floor.”

Say It Out Loud

It would be easy to assume that your child is trying to make you work or make you upset or possibly just annoy you. But wait. Reserve your judgement. Refuse to assign a motive to their behaviour. The only thing you need to do is to state out loud, devoid of all emotion, what they did in its very simplest, most obvious, sense.

“You threw your spoon down on the floor.”

Identify the Emotion

Next, observe your child’s physical state. Look at their facial expression and body language and do your best to figure out what emotion they’re likely feeling. If your child is clearly angry, state that out loud. “You look like you’re angry.”

If they yell, “No!” it’s probably safe to assume that you’re on the right track.

If you see they’re just amusing themselves, you can say, “I see you’re having fun.” Again, your goal is to merely state the obvious without assuming a motive and reserving all judgment. If you’re dealing with a toddler, you are also using this opportunity to teach them about their emotions by offering a name to describe what they’re feeling.

Say Your Side of the Story

Then it’s your turn to tell them how you’re feeling as a result of their action. “When you throw your spoon on the floor during lunch, it makes me frustrated because I have to clean up your spaghetti sauce.” The goal is to let your child know that their behaviour has consequences that go beyond them.

What they do out of anger and even pure amusement affects Mommy or Daddy as well.

The sooner they realize that their actions have consequences that reach beyond themselves, the sooner they will develop empathy towards those around them. Empathy begins when your child sees that other people have emotions that are completely separate from their own.

Divert and Proceed

You can choose to personalize your child’s unwanted behaviour and make it all about you or assign some ulterior motive to it. You could just yell, “Stop it!” every time their spoon lands on the floor, whether they’re angry, amusing themselves, or purely by accident. But the teaching opportunity would be missed. You would be creating a Me versus Them attitude.

You might even be creating a self-fulfilling expectation where you assume the negative until one day, that’s what it becomes. For example, if you keep assuming that they’re out to get you and you act like the sad, little victim, they will begin to treat you as the victim and throw their spoon on the floor and make you pick it up.

Instead, it would be much more beneficial at this point to redirect their attention to another activity they can look forward to. You could say, “After we’re done eating, let’s go play at the park.” Divert their attention away from the unwanted behaviour and proceed on with your day.

The Recipe for Tool #1

To complete the recipe of the Parenting Out Loud tool, you will need one parent, one child, and one unwanted behaviour.

Step 1 – Speak It

Rather than focusing solely on the unwanted behaviour, find the teachable moment by calmly stating out loud the thing they just did. From yelling at you to throwing a block at their sibling, you can defuse the situation by calmly stating the obvious – what precisely they just did – without attaching any value or emotion to it.

Step 2 – Offer an Emotion

You can build their emotional vocabulary by observing their body language and offering a suggestion as to how they may be feeling.

Step 3 – Build Empathy

Next, let them know that their actions affect those around them by telling them how their behaviour made you feel.

Step 4 – Move On

And lastly, move on. Rather that dwelling on the unwanted behaviour, redirect by suggesting something enjoyable you can do together and put the situation behind you.

There it is, your first tool in your parenting toolbox.

Now go and parent calmly out loud!

HB

HB is a roller coaster father, one minute he is ecstatic about his children, the next he wonders if life will ever get any better. A long standing member of the 'I yell at my kids' club, he writes with passion and an analytical mind. Dissecting and separating the nuanced strategies that make a good parent great. He experiments with parenting techniques on his 3 year old so you don't have to.

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