As adults, we want children to respect us and listen to what we ask of them.

However, kids have their own thoughts, opinions, and goals.

So, you may often find yourselves in arguments and frustrated with each other.

Let’s review some communication strategies that can help you set limits and rules and continue to have a positive relationship with your child.

  • Be clear and detailed. What “be good” or “be respectful” means to you may mean something different to your child. Sometimes a child thinks they are following directions and doing what you asked, so they feel frustrated or sad when you express dissatisfaction. Think about exactly what you expect out of them and make that clear.
    • For example, “I want you to make your bed every morning before school” is better than “be organized” or “do not ask me permission for something in front of others” is better than “do not pressure me.”
  • Use DEAR MAN. This popular communication strategy is from a therapy called Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) which focuses on getting what you want while keeping a positive relationship. See below to download our guided worksheet.
  • When possible, be open to hearing what your child wants. Approach these conversations with curiosity about how they are thinking and feeling. After hearing their side of things, try and find a way to meet in the middle. For example, allowing them to go to their friend’s house but only if you talk to the friend’s parents first.
  • Saying No. In the end, our roles as adults are to keep children safe and guide them. Sometimes, we cannot compromise and have to say no. However, there are ways to do this that can be respectful and lessen the frustration a child may feel.
    • First, let them know you heard their point of view: “I understand you want more time to play video games at night because that is when your friends are online to play with you...”
    • Then, state your limit and the reason: “… but the rule is you have to stop playing by 9 p.m. Your health and sleep are my priority, and this rule is to make sure you get enough sleep.”
    • If there is a possibility, problem-solve: “Do you think there is another time your friends could get online to play with you?”
    • You may have to use the broken record technique. This means keep repeating your boundary/rule without being distracted by arguments. Do not allow emotion or negotiation if the boundary is not flexible.

Remember, even though your job as a parent is to set rules and boundaries, children want to be heard and respected. These communication skills take practice, but over time, they can lead to less conflict and improved relationships with your children.