Rayna Shock MA,
UKCP reg Child & Adult Counsellor / Psychotherapist,
Trainer & Consultant
for the Emotional Wellbeing of Children, Adolescents, Adults & Families
Workshops & Advice for Parents
Advice for Parents -
How to communicate more effectively with your children
Conflict is a normal part of life and this is certainly for teenagers, who often thrive on them.
As parents, we need to be aware that we model how to argue for our children. If we shout to assert ourselves, we cannot be too surprised if our children do the same.
Understanding Parent, Adult, Child communication (PAC) will help you, not only help you communicate more successfully with your children but it will also enable you to express yourself more effectively with people in general.
PAC originated with the theory of Transactional Analysis in the 1960s, so if you want to know more, you can refer to TA theory. This is a very simplified version of PAC but it all you need to know to change the way you approach conflict.
Put simply, we all have a parent, adult and child within us.
The Parent part of us can be nurturing but it can also be punitive.
The problem with the punitive part is that it immediately activates the Child in someone else, child or adult.
The Child can be spontaneous, free, a pleaser or rebellious amongst other things.
The punitive Adult will either activate the pleaser who will not fight back and feel shame; or it will active the the rebellious child, who will fight back in a defensive way, most often leading to an escalation of the argument. Once the argument escalates, the Parent often losing control and begins to behave from their Child state. Now we have two children fighting, not listening to each other and the end result is slammed doors, anger and a lack of any resolution or compromise.
In this scenario, the Adult does not exist. yet, the Adult is the rational part of us, the part we need to activate if we are to have any chance of having a discussion and reaching a reasonable conclusion. The Adult is the mediator, the rational, grounded part of us, that listens to all perspectives, is reasonable, negotiates and stays calm.
It must be clear by now that both/all parties in a conflict have to access the Adult part if there is to be any hope of a positive outcome.
What parents can do to improve communication:
Listen without judging
Keep channels of communication open etc.
Arguments are inevitable
Teenagers find them more energising than parents
Teenagers learn how to have an argument by arguing
Parents model how to have an argument without being damaging
Remember that children learn how to argue from their parents. If you shout, they will think that this is how to argue.
Parent Conflict: Children worry when their parents are in conflict. They don’t know how serious the arguments are and often imagine the worst. When a human only knows half a story they will fill in the gaps – we do it as do our children. Conflict at home causes the children anxiety and makes them fear for the future, so the less the children have to worry about you, the more relaxed they will be at home.
What to do in an argument:
Argue only when necessary
Check your facts
Don’t bring in past demeanours or bring in other people into it
Remain in adult i.e. stay calm and don’t shout
If you want your teenager to do something:
Don’t justify your request
Compromise where appropriate
Avoid statements like:
‘Because I said so, that’s why’
‘Because it is important, that’s why’ etc.
You don’t have to have an argument because your teenager wants one