THE BLOG
01/19/2016 11:42 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Don't Talk Judgmental

Children and teens need respect. We hardly know we do it, but as parents we often sound like we are always judging them, accusing them, criticizing them, even intimidating them. No wonder they don't listen.

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We don't mean to, but we make them feel 'less-than,' small, unappreciated, dumb, and unable to think for themselves--the very thing we want them to do.

So many children feel they are always doing something wrong because of the judgmental tone of voice we use even when we are trying to advise and help them. Our tone says, "Don't you know better?" when our intent is "Let me help you make a better choice."

How can we phrase our sentences so children want to trust our advice and seek our guidance.

10 Openers for Gentle Guidance without Judgment

1. "I wonder if you would like to think about..."
2. "How would it be if you considered this idea?"
3. "What's going on with....?"
4. "What's up today at school? Any help needed?"
5. "What's the scoop with email from your teacher? What's on your mind about it?"
6. "I have an idea.....What's your take on that?"
7. "Tell me your opinion about.....and I'll tell you my thoughts..."
8. "Which is a better idea.....this choice or that...any others?"
9. "I see you're in a muddle. How can I help?"
10. "You seem to feel crummy today. What's cooking?"

Each of these openers suggest that you trust your child's opinions, ideas, thoughts, choices, and want very much to hear them before you throw in your ideas and suggestions. Listening first before you offer any of your own opinions or solutions often leads to your child coming up with his or her own good judgments.

Tone of Voice

It's not always what you say, but how you say it. Listen carefully to your own tone of voice.

Is it rushed, irritated, impatient, gruff, curt, snappy, loud, demanding?

When parents lead hectic lives and just want things done before they get onto their next multi-tasking place, they don't realize how they come across.

When we demand a lot of ourselves, we don't realize we do the same to others. We want our little children or busy teenagers to go at our pace and forget they have their own pace. So our voices get strident when they don't keep up with us.

Parental Anxiety

Our strident, demanding voices are really filled with anxiety. We may be overwhelmed, but our kids don't know that. They take it all very personally and feel insecure, develop the view their parents don't even like them, or think they have any brain power at all.

We demand respect without giving it because we often feel uncertain, uneasy, wary, worried, skeptical, and resigned to resentful days of too much activity.

This anxiety turns into a judgmental attitude toward our kids. We can change that and make all our lives more peaceful, respectful, and loving. Give it a try!!

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Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. is a psychoanalyst with a recent book, Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child's Behavior, found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Familius and wherever books are found.