“You really shouldn’t let your child manipulate you.”
“You really shouldn’t eat dessert. It will ruin your diet.”
How would you feel if someone told you these helpful statements? Defensive? Annoyed? Angry? If so, you are not alone. It is challenging to hear rebuke even if it is for one’s own benefit.
As parents, it is our obligation to give our children rebuke and guide them on the correct path. If we will not nudge them gently in the right direction, how will they know not to stray? At the same time, we cannot just dispense heaping spoonfuls of rebuke. At best, the child will tune it out; at worst, he will rebel. Either way, the child will most likely become crushed and broken. Giving rebuke in a positive, effective manner is a balancing act. When given respectfully and smartly, we can get our messages across and still maintain our child’s dignity. As is said by the age-old adage, “Dispense criticism like pepper and compliments like sugar.”
As you are about to give rebuke, it should be done out of love and care (put your arm around the child’s shoulder, pat his hand while rebuking him), rather than stemming from anger or embarrassment. A motive such as, “what will the neighbors think?” or “this is ruining our family reputation” is not valid. If your child has done something wrong and you are not in the state of mind to give him rebuke, either wait until your feelings simmer or have another objective party do the guiding.
When rebuking your child, choose your words carefully. Be clear. Keep it short and sweet. Sometimes, even a stern look or gesture can be enough to get a message across. Don’t use sarcasm, put-downs or comparisons. Keep your tone of voice friendly. Don’t start a discussion or argument. Try to think of a positive way of phrasing your message, such as “When your blouse is tucked in, you really look like a princess.”
Most importantly, try to preserve your child’s self-esteem and self-image. Of course, that means to give rebuke in private and to criticize the action not the person, such as your room is so messy vs. you are a slob. Your goal is to improve character traits. Below are some suggestions how to do this:
- Allow the child to figure out on his own what he did wrong. It is much easier to swallow the rebuke that way. So, instead of yelling at your seven-year-old for bossing his playmate, you can tell him, I saw how you treated your friend when he came over. How do you think he felt?
- Remember to use the skill of negative-I messages. “When I entered the living room and saw the food left by your studying team, I felt annoyed at your lack of responsibility and initiative to clean up.”
- With younger children, you can weave a message into a story about a child of the opposite gender, living in a different city…with the same challenge. Or you can find a book with a message similar to the one you wish to impart.
- You can describe what you see going on, rather than offer direction. I see toys on the floor that can cause someone to trip. You can also state rules, rather than give orders, such as when milk spills, we use a rag to clean it up.
- For children who have a hard time accepting rebuke, you can sugar-coat your words by keeping your message open-ended. For example, “You might want to consider eating breakfast today, since you need more energy to take the big test…”
- Always try to teach your child a skill rather than criticizing a given area. For example, instead of telling your son his briefcase is messy, teach him how to organize it.
- Finally, teach your child that accepting rebuke is a skill to work on. You are their role model, teaching them to accept rebuke graciously. Children must understand that to improve, we must all listen to each other’s constructive criticism.
Of course, it’s hard to master the skill of giving rebuke effectively. However, it’s even harder not to give rebuke at all and hardest to give it in a constructive way. So, keep these words of rebuke in mind…as you give your child rebuke and honest feedback.
Did you ever feel annoyed or angry at someone for giving you rebuke in an inconsiderate manner?
Actions speak louder than words. In fact, they speak 93% louder than words. That’s because, case studies prove that 93% of our messages are communicated through body language, divided between 55% conveyed through the emotional messages of face-to-face interaction and another 38% transmitted through the voice. This means that only 7% of communication is expressed by our words. That’s astounding!
In practical terms, this means that we can be giving the most loving, caring speeches to a child, and yet, if he does not feel the love and care behind these statements, then they are almost worthless. In contrast, we can be giving the most stinging rebuke to a child, but if our body language continues to convey respect and love, then the very sharp criticism is transformed into a cherished moment symbolizing love and concern for the child.
People believe non-verbal communication more readily than verbal communication. That’s because, while one can pay lip-service to giving fine platitudes without really meaning them, one can rarely put on a convincing act of body language. For example, when we say no to a child, yet we sound unsure and doubtful, the message that there is room for negotiations speaks louder than the word no.
In addition, non-verbal communication happens continually, all day long, as opposed to verbal communication, which happens only when we engage in conversation. At times, we might think that we aren’t being expressive, while in reality we are sending messages all the time through other means, for example a look of annoyance or a grumpy face.
We must make sure that our non-verbal communication matches our verbal messages. Otherwise, our children become confused and insecure.
For so many reasons, we must work from inside-out and start tuning in to the silent signals we give our children.
Start by analyzing your facial expression. When your child arrives home from school, do you look happy? Uptight? Worried? Concerned? Excited? Remember: A face is public property, always open for public viewing. Make it pleasant and warm.
Think about eye contact. When you look your child in the eye, you convey your love and concern for him. You show him you truly care about him.
Brainstorm for different positive gestures, which can help you express your unconditional love for your child. A pat on the back, a stroke on the cheek, a small handwritten note, a thumbs-up; these speak so much more than long-winded messages.
Examine your tone of voice. Listen out for its intensity and loudness. Messages conveyed softly and are easier to intercept and accept. In addition, our tone can sound firm and confident or uncertain and meek/trusting or critical/proud or disappointed/excited or sad.
When a parent-child relationship is positive, the child is eager to hear from and please the parent. However, when the relationship is strained, it is important to examine our forms of communication. Think of non-verbal ways to express genuinely positive messages to the child-and you will see how far these silent messages can reach.