When parents say something to their children they often say something about them. This is why communication to children has such an impact on them as people and ultimately upon the relationship between you and them. Every time you talk to your children you are adding another brick to the relationships that is being built between you. And each message says something to your children about what you think of them. They gradually build up a picture of how you are perceiving them as people. Talk can be constructive to your children and to the relationship or it can be destructive.
One way we help parents understand how the Communication Roadblocks can be destructive is to ask them to remember their own reactions when they shared their problems with a friend. Invariably, the parents in our classes report that most of the time the Roadblocks have a destructive effect on them or on their relationship with the person they are telling their troubles to. Here are some of the effects our parents report:
They made me...
- stop talking, shut me off.
- defensive and resistive.
- argue, counterattack.
- feel inadequate, inferior.
- feel resentful or angry.
- feel guilty or bad.
- feel I'm being pressured to change--not accepted as I am.
- feel the other person doesn't trust me to solve my problem.
- feel I'm not being understood.
- feel my feelings aren't justified.
- feel I've been interrupted.
- feel frustrated.
- feel I'm on the witness stand being cross-examined.
- feel the listener is just not interested.
The parents in our classes immediately recognize that if Roadblocks have had these effects on them in their relationships with others, they will probably have the same effects on their children. And they are right. These 12 kinds of verbal responses are the very ones professional therapists and counselors have learned to avoid when they work with children. These ways of responding are potentially "non-therapeutic" or "destructive". Professionals learn to rely on other ways of responding to children's messages that seem to carry far less risk of causing kids to spot talking, making them feel guilty or inadequate, reducing their self-esteem, producing defensiveness, triggering resentment, making them feel unaccepted, and so on.
When parents realize how much they rely on The Roadblocks they invariably ask with some impatience, "How else can we respond? What ways are left?"*
*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's F.E.T. Adult Resource Book