I learnt about this simple but effective tool during my training with Family Links to help supplement my work as a Family Support Practitioner. I taught it to many families in their homes and also to groups of parents, seeing positive results time and time again.
The aim of the tool is simple, it is about the way you use certain language which instantly takes blame away from your child and allows you model calm emotional responses through talking about how you feel. I statements show your child how to communicate feelings effectively rather than getting angry or raising your voice. It is also a good way for you to check in with yourself about how the situation has presented itself as challenging, and gives you a way of thinking ‘well why do I feel annoyed, disheartened, upset etc..’. It is about turning things around and not pointing or blaming, but rather encouraging that communication of feeling which you have the power to achieve in your home by using this tool.
Another important factor of this tool is that it doesn’t single out one individual child who may be presenting slightly more challenging behaviour, instead, it address the situation as a whole. This is a vital element of the tool because if you are constantly clashing with and blaming one child for doing something wrong, they can easily feel singled out and hurt. All too often, this can turn into a negative cycle resulting in that child displaying negative behaviour, you blaming them, nothing being resolved, and then the cycle repeating itself again and again.
So how can I use this tool I hear you ask?
Well its simple! Try to take away the YOU and blaming out of a sentence, and replace it with an I. Following this, you also need to state what you would like to happen to make things better, therefore offering a positive solution to the situation.
Examples of employing the I-statements:
1. Rather than saying “YOU kept me up last night”, instead say “I feel so tired when I am kept up during the night and it makes things hard for me at work, what I would like is for everyone to go to bed when asked to and stay quiet in their rooms while falling asleep”
2. Rather than saying “YOU should have told me you would be late home from school”, instead say “I feel so worried and upset when I am not told if someone is coming home later than expected, what I would like is for us all to communicate with each other if we are going to be home late so no one has to worry”.
3. Rather than saying “YOU haven’t put your toys away, again!”, instead say “ I feel so upset when I come home and there are toys all over floor, what I would like is for things to be put away after they are used or played with so we have space to play together ourselves!”
Using this tool within your home can quickly change how you also deal with conflict and challenging situations outside the home, such as in the workplace. Remember that the most important reason for using this tool is to keep yourself calm and to help communicate you feelings in an effective way. It is a easy and useable method of modeling positive expression of thoughts and feelings to your children, which they can observe and then imitate. This process enables you to aide your child’s emotional development and communication skills, which you must positively reinforce and praise them for!
“Encourage expression of emotion which will aid communication”