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Clarifying: Essential for Understanding by Gregory Bland

Sep 29th, 2011 | By | Category: Parenting

Pro-Active Parent Coaching Model“I don’t even bother trying to open up to my parents anymore. They just jump to conclusions and then begin to rant about why I should or shouldn’t do this or that. I think they are more concerned with their ‘rules’ than they are about me as a person. They never give me the opportunity to fully explain my side of a story, or see my point of view. So why should I bother opening up to them? I know my friends understand me, so when I have something I need to talk about, I just go to one of them.”  Roberta, 15

Understanding is foundational to a healthy relationship with your child. Misunderstandings, on the other hand, are often the fuel for relational conflict and serve to create a tension within family relationships.  Our goal as pro-active parent coaches is to foster an environment of understanding within our families through connecting, asking, listening, and what we’ll consider today, clarifying.

Clarifying is the linchpin of understanding, it ensures that what you are hearing is indeed what your child is intending.  Clarifying brings the topic of conversation into sharp focus and ensures that both the parent and child are indeed on the ‘same page.’

Can you identify times within your own life when you have realized that an argument, disagreement, or conflict has been the result of a misunderstanding?  Or, have you ever jumped to a quick conclusion, broke into the conversation with your point of view, suggested changes, or opinion, only to realize later that you didn’t truly understand what your child was thinking, feeling, or experiencing and what you said didn’t relate at all?

These unfortunate experiences serve as powerful reminders that we have sometimes mistakenly presumed we understood what our child was intending, when in fact we didn’t.

Taking the time to clarify and ensure mutual understanding is an important discipline for a parent coach that not only ensures understanding, but fosters greater health within our relationships.

A true understanding can only be attained when both the parent and child step away from conversation knowing without a doubt that they are in agreement as to what the other intended. As a general rule of thumb, never assume you fully understand what your child is saying until they have confirmed it. There is something reassuring in these simple words, “Yes, Mom/Dad, that is exactly what I mean.”

Clarifying throughout our parent coaching conversations can be as simple as saying something like,

“I want to ensure that I understand.  What I hear you saying is . . . ., am I understanding you correctly?”
“Let me see if I understand what you’re saying.  You want to ….., is that correct?”
“If I understand you correctly . . . . is that right?
“You mentioned ________, can you help me understand what you mean by that?”
“This seems very serious to you, can you help me understand what you’re thinking/feeling/ experiencing?”

Giving our child permission to say “No, that is not what I meant; what I meant was . . .,” and allowing them to correct us, say “Yes, that is exactly what I mean!”, or fully articulate what they are thinking/feeling/experiencing is a powerful relationship principle.  It communicates to our child that:

we value relationship,

we are approachable,

we truly want to understand them,

we give them the benefit of the doubt,

we don’t always have to be right, and

they are free to express their hearts and minds openly with us.

Ultimately, we’re saying to our child, “I value and respect you as a person, and truly want to understand what you are saying, thinking, and feeling. If I ever misunderstand you, you have permission to correct me.”

Understanding in this way fosters strength within our relationship and positions us as the best parent coach for our children.  As we support relationship through understanding we capture our child’s heart and make it most natural that they will invite us to support their growth through Coaching with E.A.S.E.


Begin practicing the clarifying technique in conversation with others this week. Don’t settle for assuming that you understand what is intended, ensure you understand by clarifying. Soon it will become natural for you and as you grow in understanding you will gain a greater appreciation of those around you. Intentionally ask clarifying questions and at the end of each conversation take a few moments and reflect.

• What impact did clarifying have upon this conversation?

• What did you find taking place within your heart and mind as you intentionally sought understanding through the clarifying technique?

• What did you observe about the other individuals you were speaking with as you sought understanding through clarification?

• How did they respond?

May understanding be the foundation relationship within your family.

Enjoy your journey into Pro-Active Parent Coaching
Your friend and Pro-Active Parent Coach
Gregory Bland

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