Friday, 16 March 2012

Communicating with Children: Feel Short Tempered?

An adult writes an important letter and places it on a table when her phone rings.

She takes two minutes to answer the call.

As she finishes her conversation, a two and a half year old child walks up to her with a piece of crumpled paper in hand. She shows it to her with a naughty expression on her face. The adult suddenly realises that it is the very important letter she just wrote. Her temper flares. She feels so angry with this naughty little child. She wants to give her a piece of her mind.

How would you feel if you were in this adult’s shoes? If you would also feel as she did, it is absolutely nothing to worry about! It is the way most people would normally feel. However, what you choose to say and do in that moment of anger is of greater significance than how you feel.

If you are a parent or a teacher, you will agree that children often say and do things that can send our tempers flaring.

However, it is important to keep our tempers in check when this happens. Because losing it would only make the situation worse. Losing your temper will do nothing to stop undesirable behaviour in the future. Children would also get a wrong signal, which is that they can get your attention by exhibiting destructive or undesirable behaviour.  

Going back to the story, the adult though angry and feeling a rise in her temper, manages to find a sense of balance.Though very angry, she does not react or lose control of herself. She opens the crumpled piece of paper and looks at the child. 

“You crumpled my paper and destroyed it,” she says to the child in a calm yet serious tone of voice. The child just stares back at her.

“I feel very angry that you did this,” she continues. The child continues to look at her without saying anything. 

You see what happened. The adult expressed her feelings in a calm manner. Hence, the child did not perceive a threat. As a result, the child at least stood in one place and listened to what the adult had to say.If the adult had instead lost her temper, the child would have gotten busy defending herself, getting away from the scene or throwing a tantrum. It would have created one messy loop with both the adult and the child angry!

The adult was able to express herself to the child only because she managed to stay calm. The end result was that the child understood that her behaviour was not acceptable and that it made another person unhappy and angry.

You may be wondering if it is alright to tell the child that you are angry. Of course, it is! Anger is a normal emotion that most people feel from time to time. So, there is no need to pretend like you never get angry. But finding a healthy means to express the anger, without losing control of self is important.

Communication is a very important part of effective living. Communicating clearly with children is as important as communicating with adults. When doors of communication are open, it frees you up to express your feelings and thereby solves issues in an effective manner!

<p><a href="">Image: David Castillo Dominici /</a></p>


  1. Very useful thoughts and well written, Haripriya.
    These are situations that we come across almost everyday and often lose touch with our language and body-language when communicating with our kids...
    Great read...

  2. Awesome...good post...but very hard to execute.

  3. Thanks Rashmie and Ketan.

    Ketan, it is no doubt difficult because it requires us adults to change those habits of mind of ours that we have acquired unconsciously over the years. But with effort, it is certainly possible.