Communication for family harmony

Every human being sees the world through their own unique lens, which is based on their beliefs and their previous life experiences. Even siblings who have the same parents and have lived in the same house often see the world differently.

How we see the world is valid for us  and is not wrong. This is where it gets tricky. Young children are gradually building their map of how the world works and in childhood kids can get upset easily when they feel confused and frightened when things don’t go as they would like them to.

Each child begins the world with a ‘me’ map and this is why they often make unreasonable demands about wanting things from an egocentric place. Gradually they start forming a ‘you’ map when they realise that Mum is separate, and finally a ‘we’ map – where I exist as a ‘me’ among other ‘mes’.

The number one need of every child is to feel connected and feel that they are loved, safe and that they belong.

Canadian child psychologist Dr Vanessa La Pointe says:

“When a child experiences emotional and/or physical separation – perceived or real – from their special big people their brain experiences FEAR – stress follows – then behaviour. When the child experiences emotional and/or physical connection instead of separation this fear is taken care of, the brain is calmed and the child is released to rest.” 

Essentially Dr La Pointe suggests that parents usually look for the ‘why’ and not the ‘what’ with children’s behaviour. Children are not bad, so much as they are not coping and not sure what else to do in order to get what they want which is more love and more connection.

This is the key to much of our behaviour: I want to get my needs met. As social beings, human connectedness and loving intimacy is the healthy glue to relationships. When it is absent, often individuals express their pain and frustration outwardly to those closest to them.

Remember, everyone needs

  • Love
  • To be heard
  • To be understood
  • To belong
  • Autonomy
  • Acceptance
  • Respect
  • Trust
  • Survival skills
  • Fun and laughter…
  • Connection to heart and soul


Communication is the key to creating loving caring relationships

Avoid assuming anything about another person

Here are some key phrases we can use as keys to opening communication:

“I see”

“Tell me more”


“Say that again. I want to be sure I understand you.”

“Mm hmmm”

“You don’t say”

“No kidding”

“How about that!”

“Now that’s interesting”


“A little birdie told me”


Encouraging words

Below are some sentences that we can use to encourage young people – these are great for home or the classroom. Remember to avoid asking ‘why’ questions?

It’s also good to avoid using the words ‘always’ or ‘never’ as they are very permanent. Finally we shouldn’t tell young people it’s easy or it’s going to be hard or tough as a predictor – it sets up expectations.

“How might we resolve this? “

“What do you think needs to happen now? “

“What questions do you have about what we have just done? “

“What can I do to help you complete this task? “

“Sounds like you have a problem. “

“How can we work together to get the best outcome here? “

“There is a conflict here – how can I help you sort it out? “

“Please make a decision to stay with us or go to the calm down area.” (CHOOSE. DECIDE. PICK). 

“Please consider making a different choice. “

“Act as if …”

“Check yourself – do you have everything you need to do this? “

“Check it out inside, does it feel right? “

“What’s your goal? What’s your intention? “

Make a picture in your mind (Positive picturing) “

“What do you attribute that to? How did you produce that result? “

“I’m willing to help you complete this task. “

“I know you can handle it! “

“Every problem has a solution”


Some tips on how to acknowledge children

Say things like:

“Thank you for being kind to your brother.”

“I saw you washing your hands after going to the toilet.”

“I know how hard it is to be patient when you play with others.”

“I noticed you using your quiet voice – well done!”

“Sing songs with them, especially their favourite ones.”

Make them laugh


Building the Gift of Acknowledgement  – Being Seen

Make a habit of aiming to give each child in your life 10 words of acknowledgement each day.

Examples: I enjoy your creative spirit. You have such a bright and cheery personality. I enjoy watching you build things. I saw you help David when he fell over – well done for being caring. I wish I had your energy. You are such a delight to have around. I enjoy your cheeky laughter every day. I appreciate you sitting still on the mat when you really want to be outside. Thank you for waiting so patiently. I respect your courage at climbing so high. I look forward to seeing you every day. 

I have been a huge fan of Naomi Aldort’s work for many years. (I highly recommend you check out her website for some great parenting support) Below is her list of suggestions on building connection with your child:

Building Respectful Connection

  • Help your child only when he/she asks and only as much as s/he asks
  • Provide your child with opportunities to do things by themselves
  • Support your child’s choices regardless of outcomes
  • Express gratitude and avoid criticising child’s actions
  • Avoid praise – instead mirror their expressed feelings – praise behaviours
  • Let go of your agendas to do what you want all the time
  • Avoid comparing your child to others
  • Respect your child’s knowledge and wisdom
  • If your child is upset  listen, validate and reassure her of your love
  • Devote time to be present to your child
  • When you are with her, follow her lead, and participate respectfully
  • When she asks for help, do so promptly and with a joyful spirit

— From Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves (2005) by Naomi Aldort.

Another great aspect of Naomi Aldort’s work is her SALVE technique (watch a YouTube clip of her explaining it here).


S  – Separate yourself from the child’s behaviour and emotions with silent self-talk

A – Attention on your child

L – Listen to what they are saying or showing by their actions

V –  Validate their feelings

E –  Empower your child to resolve his own upset

— From Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves (2005) by Naomi Aldort.


Dealing with conflict

Everyone yearns to be heard, valued, accepted and loved. When we are not, we struggle and when we struggle we can be forced to use our primitive brain to survive – we fight, we freeze or we flight (we leave). If you are dealing with a family situation involving high emotions, there are several things you can do to try to resolve conflict within yourself or your family*:

  • Consider writing an ‘I am sorry’ letter to someone who you have emotional conflict with and free yourself a little. I have had to discard many old suitcases of pain in my life by taking some action.
  • Check out Byron Katie’s process The Work. 
  • Take an hour to sit down and write a Truth Letter then burn it carefully.
  • Chat to a safe friend, make an appointment to see a professional or call a help line.
  • Give yourself the best gift possible – freedom from emotional angst – and know that we all see the world and life so differently and we are doing the best we can. Then challenge yourself again. Look in that mirror and tell yourself:

I love you and I am worthy of love – no matter what.

It’s the perfect place to start.

*I am not talking about family violence here. If you or someone you know needs support with a situation involving family violence, please seek help and find resources and support here.