The way kids communicate these days, it might be just as appropriate to also teach your kids to engage their brains before their typing fingers, too. Thinking before speaking – or typing – is crucial to interpersonal relationships at work, home, and elsewhere.
So how do you teach kids to engage their brain before their mouth? How can you emphasize appropriate communication in your kids?
Here are some tips.
Time-Outs (In a Positive Way)
When you hear the term “time-out,” you probably associate it with punishment. But a positive time-out can do wonders if it’s applied at various points throughout the day. You certainly don’t have to be religious to practice this, but you can also incorporate your religion into this exercise. It works like this:
* Choose a pleasant noise, such as a little bell, nice music, or whatever.
* Ring the bell, turn on the music, ring the chimes, or whatever you’ve chosen as regular intervals throughout the day (maybe 3 to 6 times a day).
* When this bell/noise is sounded, everyone who hears it must stop whatever they are doing or saying.
* Then everyone has to be silent and take deep breaths. You can pray, meditate, or simply work on re-focusing during this time.
* After about 3 to 5 minutes, everyone resumes activities.
The point of this exercise is to teach the brain to stop, refocus, and put things in perspective. The goal is to make it habitual.
If your kids say something inappropriate or gossip-y, ask them why they said it. In fact, you can have them write a paragraph or page explaining why they said what they did, and how they would feel if someone said the same thing about them. Having to engage in this somewhat lengthy exercise makes them think…and will hopefully make them think before doing it again.
Learning to ask yourself, “Why do I want to say this?” before actually saying it may save many a relationship in the future.
This is a bit easier when texting, emailing, or social networking than speaking, but the principle is the same: think about the potential consequences of what you want to communicate. If it seems good – “I’ll make people laugh!” – then tell your kids to pause and consider if the consequences are all good. For example, they may make people laugh with their comment, but who might they hurt in the process? While no one can predict everything and some people get offended at the oddest things, at least teach them to do the best they can in this respect.
Unfortunately, there are examples on the news every now and then of what can happen when someone is embarrassed and hurt by thoughtless words and actions. There are tragic examples of teens committing suicide because they were so humiliated by the words of their peers – and some of those words were probably not intended to be really mean; they were just thoughtless. But thoughtlessness could cost someone her life. Explain this in age-appropriate terms and let your child think about it.