A relationship survives on one criteria, which is, how we communicate. Effective communication is the first step of any successful relationship. It’s very important for us, as parents, to communicate effectively with our kids.
Parenting is hard work and effective communication is one of the most important life skill that helps us to connect with our kids. Most of the time we don’t realize that we are’ talking at’ them, rather than’ talking with’ them. The understanding of this difference will help us to communicate effectively with our kids.
Below are some tools/ ideas that can help a parent to become an effective communicator:-
1. Listen: it is imperative to be a good listener before one can be an effective communicator. Maintaining eye contact, being at the child’s level etc., makes children feel that a parent is listening. Remember, non verbal cues are as important as our verbal response.
When you are busy, eg, reading, doing chores, working on laptop, or on phone, and your kid wants to talk, tell them,’ can you wait for couple of minutes, let me finish the work at hand and then we’ll talk.’ And then do the same. Give 100% of your attention to them while you are communicating with them.
2. Take a break: as soon as our child has said some thing, as a parent, our first instinct is to reply immediately. But sometimes it backfires because in our haste we tend to listen to only part of what the child is saying. It’s going to be very helpful for a parent if they take a pause and reply as it helps them gather their thoughts, especially when they know that the answer is going to be a ‘NO’. Replying hastily not only hinders effective communication, it alienates the kids too.
3. Be honest: to err is human, keeping this in mind, let your kids know that its OK to commit mistakes. It’s more important to accept that you have made a mistake. Its all part of growing up. When a parent apologize for a mistake, as small as, forgetting to get a chocolate that he/she has promised or forgive the child when he/she says sorry for spilling the milk, they are subconsciously making their communication bond stronger.
4. Be clear: ask specific questions to communicate effectively and to understand them better. Eg: ‘ how did you feel when you didn’t clear football trials?’ In place of ‘ it happens!’
Use short sentences, especially when dealing with younger kids or talking about sensitive issues with older kids.
Teach them correct vocabulary, especially, for emotive words. Eg: Instead of saying’ don’t be hyper’ one can say ‘ you look excited today’.
5. Tell them what to do: children know what not to do because the most often used words by parents, elders of the family, caregivers are ‘DON’T’ and ‘ NO’ , Eg don’t touch it, don’t do that etc. To have effective communication with children, we should tell them what to do, that way they’ll have clear understanding of what is expected of them. Instead of saying ‘don’t run’ try saying ‘walk’ OR ‘don’t throw’ can be replaced by ‘ keep it down’.
6. Paraphrase: only listening is not enough for effective communication, telling what you’ve heard is equally important to earn the child’s trust . eg: if a child says ‘ it’s not fair’, regarding a parent’s decision, one can say,’ I understand you are not happy with the decision, in your opinion, what is unfair?’ Paraphrasing helps in having effective communication with the child.
Like any other skill/ behaviour, children learn to communicate by observing their parents and primary care givers. It is our duty to teach them how to communicate effectively. And how would you know that you’ve communicated effectively- just see the response.