Better Communication by Using I Messages Instead of You Messages

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Most parents start out each conversation with their children with "You...." For instance, how many times today have exchanges been; "you need to stop that behavior" "You never pick up your toys" "You need to do your homework, chores, turn off the TV, smile more, stop eating so much, etc. etc.

It is no wonder that the children stop listening to us. Every time we open our mouth it is to accuse them of something or give instructions or criticism. When anyone, including you and me, feel that someone is going to be critical, our back goes up and we prepare to argue our case.

Starting with an "I" message is more respectful because unlike the "You" message, they don't imply disrespect or criticism. Children are more apt to cooperate if they feel they have some power over finding solutions to the problem, rather than be named as the problem.


How to do an "I" message

When you use this method of communication, you are expressing how the behavior makes you feel. It is the behavior that is causing a problem for you, but it is up to the child to decide what to do about it.

1. Describe the behavior which is interfering with you. (just describe, don't blame) "I get worried when it is 3pm and you are not home from playing at Aaron's house. I understood you would be home at 2;30."

2. State your feeling about the consequence the behavior produces for you, "I worry that something might have happened to you."

3. State the consequence and ask for cooperation, "Because I don't know where you are when you are late, you will either have to not go to a friend's house for awhile or call me when you are going to be late. I don't like to be worried, so I am asking you to be more considerate. Please don't be late again without calling.

This is not a win-lose situation. When conflicts are approached in a win-lose way, everyone feels resentful, overpowered and upset. Family relationship communication is a work of cooperation that is in progress and will continue to need work the rest of your life. When we can treat each other with mutual respect and understanding, life runs smoother.


Mutual Respect is The Goal

Mutual respect is the basis for happy and productive relationships. Without this mutual respect and consideration, there will be little cooperation and honest communication. Remember it is the behavior that caused problems, and behavior can be changed.

Instead of a win-lose skirmish, aim for a considerate solution that takes in the feelings of all of the participants. Be firm but kind in stating what you need and how the behavior effects you personally.

Judy H. Wright is a parent educator, family coach, and personal historian who has written more than 20 books, hundreds of articles and speaks internationally on family issues, including end of life. You are invited to visit our blog at www.AskAuntieArtichoke.com for answers and suggestions which will enhance your relationships. You will also find a full listing of free tele-classes and radio shows held each Thursday just for you at www.ArtichokePress.com.

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