How to work at home with your child? 6 basic guidelines to start with
1. Respect and understanding…
…for each other’s needs, which means I need to work, and you, my son, need my attention, and that’s OK. It doesn’t mean that these needs are automatically met, but noticing that they are there.
I’m OK and you’re OK, even if I don’t meet your needs, and even if you use all the means to get me to meet them. You have the right to try to be effective and I have the right to feel nervous, to inform you about it and to draw boundaries for your behaviour.
2. Children cooperate with us in 9 out of 10 instances
Repeating after Jasper Juul, they really do want to work with us; just help them by saying what we expect from them. However, they are only children and operate in much shorter time frames, they are less patient.
3. Expect the possible from your children
Take into account whether their bellies are full,
whether they’ve slept enough, or maybe they’ve eaten chips and chocolate, so
nothing gets through to them, which means they’re not able to do what we expect
4. We learn by repeating as children do too
For a new activity to become a habit it takes between
3 and 21 repetitions. What’s the conclusion? No need to get mad. Just keep
5. Kids can say “yes”…
… to our request to be quiet for 1 hour, but they
probably don’t understand what they’ve committed themselves to and they will
run out of patience sooner, so be prepared to repeat your request as often as
the children will need it.
6. If something doesn’t work, do something else
Learn, read (I recommend books by such authors as J.
Juul, A. Faber and E. Mazlish).
5 stages of communication
- Intent – what we mean when we speak – thinking is to operate with symbols that are given verbal equivalents,
- Message – what we actually say – the content of the message, i.e. verbal equivalents,
- Message reception – what the other person hears,
- Decoding – what the other person understands from what they have heard,
- Interpretation – what this person has learned from having in mind the context of the situation and all knowledge sources.
What to do to be well understood?
1. Adapt the level of communication to the child.
2. Make sure your child is focused so that you can be
sure your request has reached him/her.
3. Tell your child what will happen and possibly for
4. Say what you expect, not what you don’t want.
5. Be very specific
6. Acknowledge your child’s needs as important,
relevant, and (if true) that you would very much like to meet them.
7. Give your child a choice of what he or she can do.
What should you say before you sit down at the
An example of my conversation
with my child:
Honey, now I have to sit at the computer and I need
some quiet, you can play in the room during this time, or I can play a movie
for you, or maybe you have an your own idea?
And then I often hear: „Noooo, I want you to go
to the park with me,” so I continue:
Son, I would like to go to the park with you, too, I
think it would be very nice, but I need to work today, I made an appointment
for a phone call and the lady is waiting for me, it’s very important for me.
The child may then behave in very different ways to
express their emotions and at the same time change your mind. My son sometimes
cries, does things I have forbidden him to do, starts fooling around or
throwing things. Of course I don’t like it, but I also get angry or sad when I
don’t get what I want. There’s nothing strange about that.
At that moment it’s worth to
help your child name these emotions. Providing them with the right names allows
us to control them better. How do you do that? Kneel in front of the child, try
to be in physical contact (you can hold their hand gently, stroke the head). I
also sometimes say:
Come on, we need to talk, I need to hug you, can I sit
you in my lap? (we don’t force anything).
And I go on saying:
Honey, are you angry or sad when you do that? (waiting
for an answer). I understand you can be angry. I’m sorry about that. Please
tell me, „I’m angry at you” instead of throwing things (I’m waiting
for my son to tell me that). Thank you for telling me this, I’m sorry you’re
angry, but, you know, I need to call this lady who’s waiting for me for a while
and write something on the computer.
If the child is having problems with controlling him-
or herself, it means the emotions are really strong. Hugging and stroking help
both the child and us to deal with stress because they release oxytocin, which
lowers stress hormones.
Once I manage to sit down at the computer, I’m very
tired and a little impatient. Then it often turns out that instead of letting
me work, my son comes up to me with more and more requests. How to keep your
cool and be consistent and kind then?
Assertiveness: the working mom’s weapon
Assertive behaviour is one
based on respect for the needs of each party. It is a situation when we give
ourselves and others the right to refuse to comply with a request.
On the other hand, as parents, we know the broader context
of each situation, we understand the long-term consequences and in many
situations we make the final decisions, although it is the respect for children
that makes us want to clarify to them the reasons for our decision.
It is not assertiveness does
not imply saying „no,
just because…”, „no, because I want to”, „no, because I
The assertive refusal model
The model of an assertive refusal contains the word
NO, but also we add to it:
- information about the decision or
- a possible explanation of the grounds for our refusal, i.e. the actual reasons why we decided to refuse; this makes the refusal more understandable for the other party and that is the purpose of informing about the motifs for our decisions (without excuses or resentments),
- a possible message that builds the relationship; this makes the refusal more acceptable to the other party, but the statement does not lose any of its sincerity.
Sweetheart, I’m NOT going to play Legos with you now +
because another lady wrote to me and is waiting for my reply, so I want to sit
by the computer for a while longer + we’ll play with the Legos when I’m
finished in a few minutes.
Relationship building messages
- I’m sorry, as an expression of empathy, but not an apology,
- Not now, but some other time,
- Not that, but assuring that you are open to other requests,
- Anticipation, for example: „it may be difficult for you to understand.”
- Why don’t you want to help me? Why do you want to read a book right now? – a child feels that something is wrong with him/her and his/her needs, and that’s not true.
- It’s not my fault, I have to work – you put yourself in the role of a victim who doesn’t control his/her life.
How to learn to be assertive?
You may have read this text and already know that you
like these methods, but you won’t be able to put them into practice. Frankly
speaking, I would be very surprised if you could do it right away on the first
try. So how can you help yourself to really learn it?
1. You can write down an example of a dialogue with
your child, which you will conduct in a difficult situation.
2. You are probably used to responding in some way; to
mould these habits into new ones, try to react slower, try not to shout
right away, but maybe in a while.
3. Try to define in your mind the emotion you are
feeling: „I am angry, annoyed that…” and decide whether you
want to tell your child about it.
4. Choose one new behaviour that you will implement for a while, then another.
5. Practice. Repeat to yourself what you could
say the next time. Try to change your behaviour in less stressful situations.
6. Be understanding for yourself. Apply the
same leniencies to yourself as you apply to children. Did I get enough sleep
today, or was I irritated by something else?
7. Should you actually lose control, apologize to
your child and hug him/her. Help the child tell you that he or she was
scared. You can also say that you are working on it to prevent this from
happening again. You can come up with some action plan to use when you feel
that you are losing control. Say, for example: „Next time I get so angry,
I’ll just go into the other room and try to calm down.”
Remember, that the first three attempts to implement the
new skills are only just that: attempts. The third time around you will start
to feel that you’re beginning to get the grasp of it, and the actual habit will
start to emerge between the third and twenty first attempt.