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.
Read also: 7 rules for remote working with children on board!
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 from them.
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 repeating.
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).
Read also: Children at home: how to organise their time and be able to work remotely?
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 how long.
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 computer?
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 said so”.
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.