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Awareness of Communication Blocks is the First Step

Awareness of Communication Blocks is the First Step

Parents rarely try to shut down their kids. We want them to talk with us. Often, when our words and attitudes break down communication and everyone becomes upset, we are confused.

What happened? Our words, without our awareness, suddenly felt hurtful to our kids, and they either got very angry with us or stopped talking. Our loving ally relationship suddenly became adversarial.

Michael Popkin, PhD, states that a communication block is any remark or attitude on the part of the listener (the parent) that injures the speaker’s (the child’s) self-esteem to the extent that communication is broken off.

When you feel an emotional wall has gone up between you and your child where there wasn’t one before, something you said or did was probably a communication block.

Everything you learn about blocks with children is applicable to communication with adults, as well. When you start to understand, acknowledge, and stop communication blocks, have your whole family work on this together. Show your kids what you are learning and bravely ask them to identify your blocks and which ones they want you to stop doing first.

In the communication blocks chart below, there are four columns. The first includes the name of the block, the second gives the underlying intention of the words, the third tells you the hurtful message the child hears, and the fourth gives examples of how the blocking sentences often start.

 Communication Blocks

Communication Blocks Parent’s Intention What it really says  to the child / teen Examples
Commanding To control the situation and provide the child with quick solutions “You don’t have the right to decide how to handle your own problems. “ “What you should do is…”Stop complaining.”
Giving Advice To influence the child with arguments or opinions  “You don’t have the good sense to come up with your own solutions.” “I’ve got a good idea…”“Why don’t you…”
Placating To take away the child’s pain; to make her feel better “You don’t have a right to your feelings; you can’t handle discomfort.” “It isn’t as bad as it seems.”“Everything will be okay.”
Interrogating To get to the bottom of the problem and find out what the child did wrong  “You must have messed up somewhere.” “What did you do to him…”
Distracting To protect the child from the problem by changing the subject “I don’t think you can stand the discomfort long enough to find a real solution.” “Let’s not worry about that,  let’s…”
Psychologizing To help prevent future problems by analyzing the child’s behavior and explaining his motives  “I know more about you than you know about yourself. Therefore, I’m superior to you.” “Do you know why you said that?”You’re just insecure.”
Sarcasm To show the child how wrong her attitudes or behavior are by making her feel ridiculous  “You are ridiculous.” “Well, I guess that’s just about the end of the world.”
Moralizing To show the child the proper way to deal with the problem  “Don’t you dare choose your own values.” “The right thing to do would be to…”  “Oh, how awful.”
Know-it-all To show the child that he has a resource for handling any problem, namely, the parent  “Since I know it all, you must know nothing.” “The solution is really very simple.”
Me-tooism   To show the child that you understand and can give advice “My experience is more important to talk about now.” “I had that happen to me when I was your age.”

Communication Block Chart developed by Active Parenting Publishers.

Me-tooism courtesy of Barbara Whiteside of Whiteside Workshops.

Copyright 2014 Cynthia Klein, Certified Parenting Educator,, 650.679.8138. Contact Cynthia for public speaking engagements or private coaching sessions.

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