Brevity: Talking With Kids in a Way They Can Hear by Marta Adelsman, Psy. D

kidBrevity: Talking With Kids in a Way They Can Hear

by Marta Adelsman, Psy. D

How you were raised – the conditioning from family and society that formed your beliefs and your habits – sets the groundwork for the parent you become.  We often don’t know how to raise children who communicate effectively with others without sinking into power struggles, so we need to be taught how.
Through parenting my three sons, then later through formal education, I learned the subtleties, which exist, in our communication with children.  When you put time and energy into listening for those subtleties and then practicing certain tools, you can work the magic of transformation in your relationship with your kids.  I share one of those tools with you here.

It’s called brevity.  Sometimes parents go into lengthy explanations, using way too many words:  “Billy, if you go to Sam’s for an overnight tonight, you have to get up early in the morning for soccer practice, and you know how you don’t enjoy mornings when you haven’t had enough sleep.  Plus you’ve had the sniffles lately and you may be coming down with a cold.  And what will you do about the promise you made to your dad to help him in the backyard this evening to get ready for the barbeque here on Sunday?”  When you go on and on like this, your child will most likely tune you out.

In “The Mindful Express,” Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D., wrote, “Researchers have shown that the human brain can keep only four ‘chunks’ of information or unique ideas in short-term (active) memory at once.  This amounts to about 30 seconds or one or two sentences of speaking.”

Using brevity in the above example, you could say:  “Having an overnight at Sam’s is complicated because of all the things going on this weekend.  Let’s figure out if it makes sense for everyone concerned or if another night would be better.”

Here you limit your response to a couple of sentences, much easier for Billy to absorb.  You invite cooperation in further conversation because you have communicated your desire for a solution that considers everyone’s needs and does not remove Billy’s overnight with his friend from the equation.

Responding with brevity in expressing yourself to Billy will more likely produce a response of collaboration and respect and ward off a power struggle.

Brevity requires you to remain present to the words you speak.  Brevity, used with an even and matter-of-fact tone of voice, communicates calm in the midst of unresolved or anxiety-producing situations.  It helps everyone refuse to make a problem out of the situation.

Have confidence that a solution exists which can serve all involved, and use brevity, calm and wisdom to invite your child to discover the solution with you.  In the process of modeling effective communication – no surprise here – you teach your children to communicate effectively!



Marta Adelsman, Psy. D., practices as a Life Coach in Communication and Spiritual Consciousness in the Verde Valley of Arizona.  She writes a newspaper column and is author of the book, Why Wallow When You Can Soar?  For appointments (couples, parents and individuals in person or by phone), email or call 928-451-9482.

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