Thursday, September 9, 2010

Formula for Communicating Better with Children

It's easy to respond to your children's behavior in ways that shutdown communication.  If your child comes to you upset because his sister won't share a toy with him, the response that pops into your mind might be "I'm so tired of your fighting!" or "Stop complaining and play with something else."  Saying something like this may get him to go away but probably won't make him feel understood.

In her book, Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, Naomi Aldort describes her SALVE formula for better communication.

S – "Separate yourself from your child’s behavior and emotions with a Silent Self-talk. This is the hardest step; once you can do it, the rest flows easily. Notice that when your child’s action elicits your reaction, your mind puts words into your mouth. … To avoid hurting your child, read the words on the automatic window silently in your head."

A –“Attention on your child. When you have silently investigated the conversation inside your head (which has nothing to do with your child), shift your attention from yourself and your inner monologue to your child.”

L – "Listen to what your child is saying or to what his actions may be indicating; then listen some more. Make eye contact with your child and ask questions that would provide him with an opportunity to speak some more, or if the child expresses himself non-verbally, to let him know that you understand"

V – "Validate your child’s feelings and the needs he expresses without dramatizing and without adding your own perception."

E – "Empower your child to resolve his own upset by getting out of his way and trusting him. Show confidence in his resourcefulness by not getting all wound up and by not rushing to fix everything."

In the situation where your son has come to you upset because his sister won't share a toy with him, the SALVE formula night work like this:

S - You think "I'm so tired of your fighting!" but you don't say this.
A - You look at your son.
L - You listen and summarize, "You asked to play with her zoo animals but she said no."
V - You validate his feelings, "You're mad because you can't play with the zoo animals right now."
E - You let him decide on what to do next.

The Listening and Validating steps may take awhile as your son continues to discuss the situation.  By not jumping in to solve the problem, you empower him to figure out how to resolve it. 

Check out her book for a more indepth explanation of the SALVE formula plus many other examples:

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