The secret to communicating with your kids


How many of these phrases sound familiar?

“I heard you the first time!”

“Alright, alright. Keep your hair on…”

“Okay, okay—I said I'm coming!”

“Wait a minute!”

“But mum…”

*Enormous tantrum*

When do you hear these phrases the most? When you're trying to get the kids out the door to school? When you've asked the kids to clean up their room? When you want them to put down their device ready for dinner?

These moments can be enormously frustrating and stressful. It's like our children work on their own time schedule—a schedule that works exactly 13 minutes and 34 seconds slower than ours. Of course, their schedules switch to working 3 hours ahead of ours when it comes to taking them out for a treat or putting on an anime DVD!

I've got to tell you, there are some days when I get so sick and tired of my children just not doing what I ask them when I ask them to do.

But let's flip the tables for a moment.

What do you say when you are happily pottering around the house, baggy track-pants and crazy hair and your partner tells you that he needs a to be dropped at the train station—NOW!

Or what about when you are the in the middle of typing a delicate work email and one of your kids start to nag you about making pancakes for their morning tea?

It's not always easy to be calm and courteous is it?

If only my partner had given me a thirty minute warning that they would need a lift.

If only my child had known how stressed I was about getting that email right.

Believe it or not, kids feel like this all the time.

“If only my mum knew that this TV show would be finished in two minutes,” they think.
“If only my dad knew that I didn't hear him when he said we would be going out soon,”
“If only my parents knew that I feel really tired and don't have the energy to clean my room tonight.”

However, our children don't articulate themselves in the way we would like—or perhaps we don't always listen when they try to tell us how they are feeling. So, we end up getting angry responses like “Okay, okay!” “I told you I'm coming” and *enormous tantrum*.

Our households could be much calmer, peaceful places if we just got alongside our kids and let them know what we need them to do ahead of time. What if we tried:

“At the end of your TV show, could you please go and clean up your room?”
“Just to let you know, later this morning we are going to be going out to the shops, so you need to start finishing up your game, okay?”
“I really want you to be on time for school today. Do you think you could go and get your shoes on? Then you can play your game in the car on the way to school.”

Maybe one of the reasons our children are becoming angry and frustrated with us is because we keep on asking them to do things without giving them warning. We like to be given warning when we are expected to do something, so why don't we afford our kids the same courtesy?

We need to think about what we want our children to do ahead of time so that we can give them time to finish up what they are doing and prepare themselves for what we want them to do.

Why not try an experiment this week. Give your child a friendly 5 minute warning before you need them to:

  • Get in the car
  • Wash their hands for dinner
  • Turn off the TV.
  • Leave the playground
  • Get in the bath
  • Clear their room

I wonder if the number of angry outbursts begins to go down with the more 5 minute warnings they get?

Louise Griffiths is the founder of Exploring All Options, an educational consultancy and tutoring service that provides alternative ways to teach young people in a way that works best for them. Visit her website here.

Do you struggle to communicate with your children? Does your household experience more tantrums than peaceful discussions? Call Colleen on 0434 337 245 or Duncan on 0434 331 243 for a FREE 10 minute consultation. To make an appointment, go to BOOK NOW and you will be able to access Watersedgecounselling’s online appointment diary.

A Couple Case study: “From terminal to serenity”


Couples will enter the counselling room at all stages of their relationship. Recently, Colleen sat down with a couple that have been married for 29 years. After journeying with Mark and Kate for some time, this was their twelfth and final session. They took the opportunity to reflect on their relationship, and how therapy has helped them.

“Our son pushed us to be here,” shares Mark, about why they began couples counselling, “I was ready to say that our relationship was done, but he insisted we try therapy.” Talking about what sanctioned change for them, Kate opens up, “Having someone [like Colleen] who had no idea of who we were or what we were about. Someone who just listened neutrally.”

Mark also mentions what they brought to the therapist-client relationship that allowed them to grow. “The strength of the will, determination to make it work, and the love that did exist in the relationship to want it to work.”

Bringing these two elements together allowed them to find Colleen, and ultimately begin the journey to growth and healing in their marriage relationship. “[Colleen was] the right therapist to steer us in the right direction,” shares Kate.

Early on, Kate and Mark found their old techniques of dealing with conflict only added to their troubles. “I talked to family members, however they were too emotionally involved so I stopped,” explains Kate. “It wasn’t helpful.”

“We were both very arrogant and stubborn about the situation,” says Mark. “Colleen helped us find the tools to reach a good point in understanding and communicating with each other.”

Holding regular sessions where the couple could openly talk about their feelings, as well as the exploration of their genograms (family history) and personality traits, enabled them to find the skills they needed to build a healthy and happy relationship. “[Colleen used] the tools of listening, respect and communicating,” says Mark. “Our defensiveness was like walls of guilt and competition. Colleen helped us see that we were creators of our own walls.”

“The emphasis of the sessions was ‘how do we move forward?’ Colleen didn’t allow us to brood, so we talked about the issues in terms of the process,” explains Kate.  “We both really wanted our relationship to work.”

Finding a couples’ counsellor who both parties trust and respect is invaluable, and this was the case as Mark and Kate met with Colleen. “Colleen was fair,” shares Kate. “She contained our negative emotions and ticked us off in a nice, calm way. It got through and made a difference to our listening. After each session, we would go into our own space to process information.”

Learning how to maintain their privacy and work out conflict with each other was also imperative in their success. “We kept it between ourselves. It is our journey, a private journey. Rather than talking to others outside the session, we were respectful of each other,” says Kate. “If we left feeling heightened emotions like anger, we didn’t take it out of the room together, we went separate ways to process alone. We knew that the negative emotions had to come out, that it was part of the process.”

“Our history of past hurts, misunderstandings and disappointments were still defining our relationship in a negative way. By visiting it briefly, we were able to acknowledge it and let go of it. It no longer had to have power over us.”

Knowing that Colleen was available to affirm and validate how she was feeling also settled Kate. “Early in the process, when I felt like I had lost control, I was able to ring Colleen, who validated how I felt and that it was okay.”

Having another person to safely share your couple journey with enables you to move from a state of survival to a relationship that thrives, and this is what made all the difference for the couple. “I am more understanding and accepting of my faults. I give the good energy and a good vibe now,” shares Mark. For Kate, the fact she is more energised changes everything, “I am not exhausted anymore.”

After finishing their twelfth session with Colleen, Mark and Kate are in a position to more effectively communicate, listen to and understand each other. “We got lost, but we found ourselves,” says Mark. “When you are listening with respect and understanding, everything just flows…we went from terminal to serenity.”

Used with permission of interviewees. Names changes to protect privacy.

Do you want your relationship to thrive? Would you like to discuss how therapy could help your couple relationship?  Here’s what you need to do: contact WatersedgeCounselling on 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how we can best help you, or press book now to book in our online diary.