By Kate Rogers, Special to the Independent
Meike Lemmens, certified in parent effectiveness training, helped parents understand the impact of their communications with children during last week’s Coffee Break parent-education talk at the Aliso Creek Inn.
About 75 parents and educators actively participated during a lively session where Lemmons defined behaviors parents try to influence. Audience members offered examples of various behaviors they would like to change and reinforce in their children.
Lemmens demonstrated the fundamentals of delivering a “confrontational I-message” which contains an identification of an undesirable behavior and how that impacts the emotional world of the parent. For example, “I feel it’s unfair if you leave your dishes on the table and I have to clean them up.” The behavior – the dishes — is irrefutable, as is the way it makes the parent feel. The elegance of this approach is its simplicity, which seeks only to share and not to judge, invites the child to empathize with their parent and come up with a solution.
Similar communications can also be used to reinforce desirable behaviors. Unlike simple praise, this kind of message actually honors the efforts of the child and reinforces a strong relationship with the parent. “I feel so proud when I see you helping your sister with her homework.” Again, it is truthful and clear, and reinforces an atmosphere of respect.
Conflict resolution was another area touched upon. Rather than working towards a “winner” and “loser” in a conflict, or even a compromise, Lemmens suggested seeking a collaborative solution. A parent, who needs private time, requires a child to go to bed at 7; the child who needs recreational time wants 9. The compromise would be 8.
Lemmens also discussed how active listening can help peel away the layers and create better understanding. This is simply using a technique where parents reflect back on what they have heard a child say to facilitate the child “going deeper.” While this may seem obvious, parents often do offer advice, or make a judgment about what their child may be communicating which essentially cuts off communication.
So once again, Coffee Break brought together parents and educators who continuously try to learn more and improve their skills.
Kate Rogers is a Laguna Beach parent involved with organizing Coffee Break.