When we speak to each other while we are upset it can be a real challenge to express ourselves well. Usually, we end up lashing out at others, blaming them for our emotions without stopping to even consider why we are most upset.
Although calm communication works best, parents can’t help having an annoyed or frustrated reaction to their child at times, that’s just normal! Parents are not only human but mostly very stretched and stressed humans; parents often feel exhausted, lacking in support and they often feel very under-appreciated.
The good thing is we can use these moments to create opportunities for closer relationships with our children by adding a simple change in our word choice.“I” instead of “You” statements can help us avoid emotional outbursts or blaming others. The “I” Statement can also be a real game-changer for effective communication.
Step 1: Name the Feeling
Step one is to put words to the feeling or feelings you are having. Sometimes we can easily identify anger but it is possible to pause and consider what is underneath (often a more vulnerable feeling like shame or fear) and then put words to this out loud. If you want to teach younger children to use these skills, the first step is making sure their feelings vocabularies are proficient.
Start with the words “I feel” and add the emotion word and a description of what just happened to trigger the emotion. This is the foundation of the “I statement.”
If you can’t imagine actually doing this when you are upset, a great way to practice this skill is to start by labeling emotions and situations for your children when they are distressed.
For example, “I feel sad when I give you food and you say “yuck” and “I’m frustrated that you took your juice into the sitting room and spilled it on the carpet because I’m concerned it might leave a stain.”
Step 2: Label the Situation
Each time we get upset it is very easy to blame others. Being upset is uncomfortable and we never want the negative choices we make when we are hurt to be our fault. The great part about this step is that you aren’t trying to figure out who is to blame. You are simply identifying the situation that occurred just before you got upset. blame on someone else.
Step 3: Stop the “You” statements
Sometimes, parents can rely too heavily on “You” statements like; “you must”, “you shouldn’t”, “why do you always” etc. Too many “you” statements can all feel so critical, blaming, and can add up to be pretty overwhelming for children of any age. Too many “you” statements make it very difficult for your child to care about your feelings, consider your needs, and respect your perspective. “I” statements, on the other hand, are a way of communicating your requests, boundaries, and limits to your child clearly, authentically, and assertively but non-aggressively. The parent shows their feelings and provides great role modeling of how to express feelings without attacking, demanding, threatening, or punishing. An example of an “I” statement is “when you speak to me like that, I feel sad/frustrated,” as opposed to a blaming “you” statement of “you’re being so disrespectful; don’t speak to me like that”.
What You Can Do Next?
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ABOUT THE FOUNDER
Internationally Recognised Emotional Literacy & Mindfulness Expert Tenille Bentley is the founder of The Emotional Literacy and Mindfulness Academy and the author of the children’s emotional literacy books with Jazzy and Pinky and The Energy Ball. Giving children a wonderful introduction to understanding their emotions and what to do with them.
Tenille has been featured on Channel 9 News and other major outlets. Her work has been recognized in the community by The Governor of Western Australia, The Prime Minister of Australia, and Australian Financial Review.
As a child, she experienced severe anxiety and emotional traumas as well as bullying which left her feeling isolated and unable to understand why she was feeling the way she did. As an adult, this impacted her ability to make healthy decisions because she didn’t have the tools to understand her emotions.
This is why she is passionate about equipping parents with the tools to support their children to make better decisions in life and healthy ones to help support and create a balanced home life.