Is that a question? Communication tips for parents

Parents generally contact ECAC when things are not going well with their child’s education.  Ineffective communication is often a part of their frustration.  Today we will look at the use of questions versus statements.  The distinction between the two is usually taught in first grade, but as an advocate for your child, it is important to know when it is better to choose one over the other.  This is especially important during parent-teacher conferences or IEP meetings.

Don’t ask a question when you are trying to tell someone something.  I often share the story about a meeting that I had with my son’s 3rd grade teacher after weeks of spending entire evenings struggling with him over homework.  My son has ADHD and a learning disability in writing, and it took him three times as long to get work completed.  Evenings had become miserable for both of us.  After meeting with the teacher and learning that she expected the average child in her class to spend 45 minutes to an hour completing homework, I told her that we were going to spend no more than two hours on homework from that date on.  The madness had to stop, so I did not give her an option.

Sometimes parents really want something to happen for their child and they ask ” can we…”, “how do you feel about…”  and other questions, when they could more effectively make statements such as, “Michael needs…” or “I think it would work better if…”.  There is a place for the other approach, but if you have already made up your mind about something, it’s okay to be more assertive with your communication.  Asking questions in a certain way gives people the opportunity to say “no”, and you don’t want to do that if “no” is not acceptable.

On the flip side, there are times when parents are seeking information, but they make statements that don’t require a useful response.  A statement that, “I don’t see why…” might sound like a request for an explanation, but it leaves enough room for other participants in the conversation to treat it like it was a personal observation that could be acknowledged without further comment.  Asking the question, “why…?” has a much better chance of producing more information or greater insight.  It’s hard for people to ignore a direct question without appearing to be rude.  Don’t forget to ask follow-up questions if more detail is needed.

The bottom line is to not expect other people to read your mind, or to  know what you “mean”.  Say what you mean and ask for the information that you want to get.  Re-word and try again if necessary.  That’s a whole lot better than being ineffective and feeling frustrated.

Did you get that?

Posted on August 27, 2012, in Advocacy, Parent Education and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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