Tips &

Tips &

Pudding first - how non verbal communication is key to negotiating with our children

February 2017
Janthea Brigden
More Tips & Tales

The tale

It makes me really chuckle when I listen to some of the absurd things grown ups say to children which originally sparked the idea for the poem in my previous post “Just Jack”.

I remember years ago listening to my next door neighbour trying to persuade her child to climb down from the wall. She began by telling him off and prophesying that he would “fall and hurt himself “ and ended by screaming that if he didn’t get down she would  “strangle him”! I suspect he reasoned that since he was going to die either way he might as well enjoy the wall a bit longer!

I often see parents coming to collect children from Nipperbout and telling them to “get a move on” because they needed to be some where else very soon. Then they begin chatting to a friend or staff member. Not surprisingly the child thinks “Whoopee! Mum/Dad doesn’t really mean it – I can carry on playing!“

My son and I went through a regular battle for a while at meal times, when he wanted to eat his pudding first . I couldn’t understand why he kept on and on even when I thought I was saying ‘no, you won’t eat your main course” calmly and firmly. Eventually, I realised it was because my body and voice tone were betraying me. I lacked conviction, because I knew perfectly well that he would eat the lot, as he enjoyed his food. Once I realised this, I let him eat his pudding first and the pointless battle ended. Food is mixed up in the stomach bucket anyway so it doesn’t really matter which way round you eat it as long as you do!

Communication is 60% body language and voice tone and only 40% words, which explains why we can often understand people who don’t speak our language if they gesticulate, and we can pick up if someone is annoyed in any language!

The tips

  • Children are brilliant at non verbal communication and they can spot a possible “yes” in our body language even when we are red in the face and screaming “NO!”
  • Try saying “Give me some time to think about it”. Then you can have a quick mental discussion with yourself. “How long is this going take? 30 mins? Well actually one biscuit wont hurt”, or “ Ten mins, so it’s a definite ‘no’!” A ‘no’ that is said calmly, with whole body agreeing, is hard to argue with and children will pickup that it isn’t worth the hassle.
  • If you have to repeat “no” try getting softer and firmer, feeling it right from your head to your toes rather than getting louder. Practice whilst looking in the mirror, think about something you would never allow and check how it feels in your body when you say ‘no’.
  • Every family needs boundaries and children need to push against them to learn social skills. A child who is pushing more than others is simply wanting to learn more quickly, or maybe hasn’t learnt what s/he needs to know yet.
  • Try to limit your struggles by making sure any rules are right for you and your children and not just followed because society or ‘everyone else’ says that’s what you should do!
  •  Remember children are little people and people are different. Life is rarely “fair”. Rules can be different for different children. My other children rarely had pudding first except as a treat because we all knew they wouldn’t be able to eat the main course first! It would have been ‘unfair’ for my son not to have his pudding first just because his siblings couldn’t eat both courses in any order.
  • Uncle Bill – see earlier posts!