By Lexi Walters Wright
When discussions between you and your child with learning and attention issues get heated, it’s important to remain respectful—and expect respect in return. Here’s how to make your point and teach healthy communication skills.
Shouting “Stop screaming at me!” when you’re arguing with your child might confuse him and make things worse. Instead, try this: The louder he gets, the softer the tone you use to respond. That demonstrates that raising your voice isn’t the way to solve problems. And it can make you both feel calmer. If your child has trouble with social cues like voice pitch and tone, once the tension has eased you can point out how your softer approach helped.
Sometimes there’s no room for negotiation on an issue. In these cases, use a calm, businesslike tone and quietly repeat what you expect from your child. “Sorry, but when you hit, you sit.” No matter how he reacts, just calmly repeat the same phrase as many times as it takes. Eventually, your message will sink in. This may be especially useful with kids who have trouble remembering or paying attention to rules.
Find out how repeating instructions helped one mom finally get her child to listen.
When there is room for negotiation, certain phrases can turn an argument into a conversation:
“What if you got 20 minutes of iPad time before homework?”
“Could we try to … ” or “Would you be willing to give this a shot for a week and then see if it’s working?”
“I wonder what you think is the best time to do your homework each day?”
Using these simple, short phrases is particularly helpful for kids who have receptive language issues or trouble focusing.
Being clear about what you want is important. And using your child’s name when giving directions gets his attention and makes your message more personal. These things can be especially helpful for kids with listening comprehension issues. Instead of saying, “The Xbox belongs to the whole family!” try, “Tommy, I’d like you to give your brother a turn now.”
Could you defuse the situation with a little silliness? Rather than yelling (again) for your distracted (or hyperactive) toddler to sit still so you can brush his teeth, try creatively coaxing him. “Quick, Nathan, I see Elmo in your mouth and I need to brush him out. Oh, and Cookie Monster, too!” Or, “You can choose what we’re having for dessert every night this week if I don’t have to remind you to set the table.”
If you feel you’re going to lose control, call a time-out: “Let’s both calm down. In 30 minutes, we can see if we’re ready to talk again.” Then each of you can retreat to different rooms to cool off and self-reflect. (Self-reflection can be a tricky skill for a kid with learning and attention issues, but seeing you model the behavior can help him learn.) If you’re in public, tell him that the conversation is on pause until you get in the car or make it home.
Stopping the discussion from escalating is the best way to keep from yelling. After all, it takes two people to argue. And unlike most kids, you have the self-awareness to stop and consider: “Is what I’m about to say going to help or hurt this situation? What about how I’m about to say it?” As the parent, you can choose to stop an argument in its tracks. You have the power to disengage, redirect or re-start the conversation in a more productive way.
Without question, parenting a child with learning and attention issues presents unique challenges. It can help to be connected to other parents who’ve been there. Use our community to share your experiences and find families like yours. They may be able to offer insights, ideas and suggestions based on their experiences. And just having someone who understands to vent with may help you stay calm when an argument with your child is brewing.
Raising a child with learning and attention issues can place a lot of stress on the relationship between you and your partner. Use these ideas to keep your marriage or partnership strong.
Dining out can be hard for any young kid. But handling the crowds, noise, waiting and social rules can be especially tough for children with learning and attention issues. These tips may make it easier.
A veteran writer and editor for parenting magazines and websites, Lexi Walters Wright has a master’s degree in library and information science and is proud to serve families at Understood.org.
Rayma Griffin, M.Ed.
Jan 24, 2015
Jan 24, 2015
3 Mindfulness Techniques to Help Reduce Parenting Stress
The Process of Acceptance for Parents of Children With Learning and Attention Issues
How to Get Past Feeling Guilty
Sometimes I Resent My Child. Is That Normal?
6 Steps You Can Take to Keep From Losing Your Cool
Why It’s Normal to Worry About Your Child
Learn about the similarities and differences between ADHD and nonverbal learning disabilities.
Find out what this type of parenting is and why one of our experts encourages it.
Here are 7 apps that can help your child stay calm and cope with stress and anxiety.
A young adult explains the connection she feels to Neville Longbottom.
Dec 6th at 3:00 pm
Discover the hows and whys of martial arts for kids with learning and attention issues.
Learn how she ultimately recognized her strengths and became grateful for how her brain works.
Here are 8 techniques you can try with struggling math students.
Hear stories from five families on how they took technology off the dinner table.
Sign up for weekly emails with helpful resources for you and your family.
This email is already subscribed to Understood newsletters. If you haven't been receiving anything, add email@example.com to your safe-senders list.
Don’t worry—we saved what you wrote.
Sign up to get personalized recommendations and connect with parents and experts in our community.
Only members can view and participate in conversations.
Child’s nickname is private and only you can see it.