How to teach your kids not to be rude

In despair over the insulting language and general rudeness coming out of my eight year old son's mouth, we are trying something new.

As of this week, the whole family is being re-educated in the way we speak to each other - adults included.

I pinched the idea of Giraffe Language and Jackal Language from The Compassionate Classroom, a book about using Non-violent communication in schools. I got interested in NVC about two years ago when I picked up a book about it. Immediately I found my own communication got better - when I remembered to use its principles.

Jackal Language describes the kind of communication that is confrontational, labelling, blaming, judging and requiring. When you realise what it entails, it's actually the kind of language most of us use every day. And it really doesn't get the result we want. Most people who are confronted with this kind of language instinctively resist it and fight back.

Giraffe Language, on the other hand, observes, discusses feelings and needs and then requests. Most people instinctively respond to communication phrased in these ways.

While I was putting up the signs on the kitchen door and explaining them to my husband, I had a wonderful chance to demonstrate both types. He was having a cereal snack and was eating his weetbix and then pouring some of 'my' rice bubbles on top.

Jackal Language would say something like this: "Hey, you're being selfish. I didn't buy those for you. You're going to eat them all and then I won't have any left. Don't do that."

Giraffe Language, however, would say something like this: "I see you're having rice bubbles on your weetbix. I feel a bit worried about that because I wasn't expecting you to eat them as well. I thought you only wanted weetbix. I really like to have rice bubbles for breakfast and if there aren't enough I'll feel dissatisfied and hungry. Please could you either choose something else, or let me know if you want me to buy more next week so we can both have some."

So far we are making some headway. I've noticed my son (and myself!) try to use giraffe language a few times and we are all noticing when any of us turn into jackals. I'm telling them that our whole family is learning together and that we won't get it perfect all the time but that we can keep practicing.