Instructions that Lead to Success
By Barbara McRae, MCC
As parents with teens, don’t you get frustrated when you think you have the right words, but your kids stare at you blankly? Or even worse, they say OK but then don’t perform the task in the way you were hoping for …
Whether you’re trying to get your preteen or teenager to rinse the dishes or wash the car to your satisfaction, you can get better results when you communicate clearly. To do this well, you’ll need to first identify the current level of your child’s ability to perform the task. Ask yourself the following question:
A. Has he/she done this task well enough before? Yes.
If YES, then specifically mention what was done successfully in the past and express your confidence in his/her ability to do it again.
If the answer is yes BUT you detect an attitude of not wanting to do the task, then you’ll need to emphasize why you’re counting on him or her to do it. If the attitude persists, make sure your tone transmits empathy to draw out the underlying issues and trouble-shoot together.
B. Has he/she done this task well enough before? No.
If NO, your son or daughter has not yet done the task the way you’d like it done, then you’ll need to take the time to clearly outline the how-to’s. The challenge here is to stay positive while methodically going through the steps in order to get your standards met.
Afterwards check for understanding before you turn the task over to your child. This means, pretend you don’t know how to do the task, and have your teenager show you. This is an effective way to catch potential trouble-spots (i.e. you’ve forgotten to give enough information or your child wasn’t listening carefully enough to your instructions.)
Keep in mind that if you don’t communicate clearly, the chances are high something will get messed-up again. You’ll also want to follow up after the task has been completed to offer your thanks and/or provide further guidance.
Now some of you might be thinking that this sounds like it would take a lot of time and you could be right. Let’s compare taking a little extra time to ensuring your young person will learn to do a good job vs. abruptly requesting a task be done without providing adequate information. Is having the task done successfully now (and in the future) worth spending a little extra time upfront? I think so.
Also, if you’re short with your children, they are more likely to assume that you think they’re stupid for not already understanding what you meant. In that case, they’re more likely to live up to your low expectations of them. Better to view this situation as a teaching moment rather than an annoyance.
How to communicate effectively:
1. Make sure you have all the information you need. Know your standards. Are they realistic? Then, break the task down into specific pieces or stages. Thinking through the instructions ahead of time will help you be clear and concise.
2. Determine whether you’ve seen your son or daughter do the task well. Yes or No? If yes, have your child do the task and express your appreciation. Once a person knows how and does it consistently well, you can even be open to innovative ideas for doing the task in the future.
3. Be willing to teach. If your child has never done the task or is still struggling, be patient, give step-by-step direction, and ask probing questions to see where you can be of assistance during his/her learning curve. Acknowledge progress. Don’t just focus on the short-comings.
Each child has their own unique needs. If you know your child’s natural learning styles: visual, auditory, or kinesthetic (hands-on), incorporate them to aid getting your point across.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much easier it will be to speak clearly and effectively now that you have the tools to attain positive results.
~ Barbara McRae, Teen Parenting Expert, Campus Calm