Jean Tracy

Article Summary:

How to communicate with your child is laid out plainly and clearly in this four point PLAN.

How to Communicate with your Child

Are your children truthful, kind, and helpful? If so, read no further. If not, please listen to Colby and his mom.

"All my friends cheat," announced 11-year-old Colby.
"What?" exclaimed his mother? "You don't cheat do you?"
"Sometimes," answered Colby. "But I never get caught."
"It's not all right to cheat, young man," scolded his mother. "How many times have I told you cheating is wrong? What is the matter with you?"

Whether it's lying, stealing, cheating or some other problem behavior, do you find yourself giving lectures on being honest while your child rolls his eyes?

I remember counseling one father who loved his daughter so much that he would give her two-hour lectures. She not only rolled her eyes, but tapped her fingers too. He would yell, "Are you listening to me?"

"Uh-huh," she'd answer.

Parents, there is an easier way. It doesn't have to take two hours either. Consider using the 4-point PLAN:

  1. Probe
  2. Listen
  3. Appreciate
  4. No Criticizing.
Instead of worrying, whining, or wearing yourself out with lengthy lectures, make your goal one of understanding what and how your child thinks. By knowing what your child thinks, you can better influence how he or she thinks. This simple PLAN will help you communicate more effectively.

Let's go back to Colby. Instead of lecturing:

Probe
Ask nonjudgmental questions. Get as much information as you can in order to understand how and what your child thinks. Guide your child with questions like:

  • How do you feel when a cheater gets better grades than you get?
  • How do you think honest kids feel about cheaters?
  • How much would your class learn if everyone cheated?
  • What advice would you give to cheaters?
Depending on your child's answers, keep probing with thoughtful questions of your own.

Listen
Listen with respect. Avoid interrupting with your own advice. If you interrupt, your child may shut down and only tell you what you want to hear. Then you'll be stuck where you started - not knowing what or how your child really thinks.

Appreciate
Look for thoughts from your child that you can truly praise. Smile, agree, and let your child know what you liked about his or her thoughts. Hopefully, your child will have already changed some old thoughts about cheating, like "It's okay to cheat if I don't get caught."

No Criticizing
Why not criticize and lecture? Because you need to reflect on what your child said. You need to consider new ways to influence your child's thinking toward a stronger healthier character. You need to create a thoughtful plan of your own for your child's further improvement.

If you follow this 4-point PLAN you will be giving your child the three priceless gifts that all human beings want:

  1. To be heard
  2. To be understood
  3. To be appreciated
These gifts will bond your child with you and influence his or her character too.

The PLAN is a powerful tool for discussing problems in movies and on TV. You can also use it to discuss real life difficulties at school, in the neighborhood, within your family, and, especially, in stories with dilemmas. The next time you have something important to discuss don't lecture. Next time Probe, Listen, Appreciate, and No criticizing. Try it. You'll like it. Why? Because you will get the results you want, an awesome kid with an awesome character.

Jean Tracy - "Granny Jean" - graduated from Seattle University with a degree in Education. She taught elementary school in Washington, California, and Connecticut. Inspired by her desire to help the problem children in her classes, Jean returned to graduate school. She earned a Master's Degree in Social Work from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania.

Upon returning to her home in Washington State, Jean worked as a probation officer and then developed a private counseling practice with families and children that spanned twenty-two years. During this time she achieved a Diplomate in Clinical Social Work.

For more information visit Granny Jean's website, www.kidsdiscuss.com.

Read all advice by Jean Tracy; Find more Parenting experts

More advice on Parenting
» Dealing With Teenagers
» Discipline Your Child with Logical Consequences
» all Parenting articles