Communication is key for any relationship to flourish, however, the communication between parent and child is especially important as children often feel as though the adults in their lives aren’t really listening to them.
When children don’t feel heard, they begin to resort to other methods to gain attention.. such as opposition, defiance, or exhibiting poor behaviors. This then leads to stress for the parent, child, as well as a potentially strained relationship. The good news is, often times these poor behaviors can be easily changed simply by the way parents interact with their children…and it starts with effective communication.
I know, this sounds too good to be true, but there is evidence to support that positive communication and interactions between parents and children can improve negative attention seeking behavior exhibited by the child.
Now, you may be thinking, “But I do talk to my kid…and they still don’t listen to me!!” which is exactly why I am writing this post as this is something I hear often from parents I work with. Yes, you do talk to your kid. Yes, you do listen to them. BUT! Are you giving them your FULL attention? Are you being mindful and present in the moment? Do they feel like you’re listening when you’re having a conversation with them? Take a moment to evaluate the answers to those questions.
This post isn’t meant to parent-shame or make anyone feel badly because the reality is, we are all guilty of this, parent or not. The world is full of distractions, we are all busy, and sometimes communication gets put on the back burner. So, in an effort to make your life easier, I am providing you with some helpful tips to better communicate with your child!
-Put the phone down. Again, we are ALL guilty of this. Our phones seem to be a permanent fixture to our hands and since we love multitasking so much, we figure we can have a conversation AND answer emails at the same time. Spoiler alert, we can’t. So stop trying. Emails, texts, social media posts will all still be there if you put the phone down and talk to your child. Put the phone down, make eye contact, and talk to your child interruption free. Not only will this foster healthier communication, but this will also model effective communication skills for your child as well.
-Stop what you’re doing and give them your full attention. Similar to the phone, this applies to pretty much any task you are doing. If your child is trying to have a conversation with you, stop whatever you’re doing and talk to them. If you’re in the middle of something you truly can’t stop right that second, verbalize that to them. Don’t try to do both, but instead let them know that as soon as you’re doing whatever task you are doing, they’ll have your full attention.
-Limit their distractions. This applies to when you want to talk to your children, too. If they are in the middle of watching tv or playing video games, limit distractions by turning those devices off so you can have a conversation. Again, this will model for them appropriate communication skills and reinforce the importance of giving someone your full attention vs. trying to talk and play at the same time.
-Move closer to your child when you’re talking to them. When you make the effort to be closer to your child, they are going to feel as though you truly care about what they have to say. So, if they start talking to you, move closer, lean in, make eye contact and really listen to what is they’re saying to you.
-Repeat things back to them. Nothing is worse than when you’re talking to someone and you hear them saying “uh huh, uh huh, uh huh, oh cool, uh huh..” as this is the cliché example of someone not listening to you. When your child is talking to you, repeat what they said to you back to them, to show you are listening. For example, if your child shares they are feeling nervous about an upcoming test, say something to the effect of, “I’m hearing you are feeling nervous about your upcoming test.” It’s that simple and there is a lot of research which shows the effectiveness of this.
-Let your child talk. Don’t cut them off or interrupt them, but instead let them talk. You may have something to add or may be excited to share your input, but interrupting them (even if it’s something exciting you want to share) can make them feel as though what they have to say isn’t important.
-Encourage your child to share more. Sometimes children give one word answers or replies when asked a question, which can be frustrating for the person asking and could lead to potential conflict. In an effort to encourage your child to expand upon their communication skills, use phrases which will encourage more dialogue. For example:
- “Wow! Tell me more about that!”
- “I would love to hear more about ________!”
- “That sounds really cool, I would love to know how you felt when that happened!”
-Be excited when your child speaks to you. We have all been in situations where we are talking to someone and the person seems truly uninterested in what we have to say. This can be so damaging to a child’s self-esteem if they feel what they have to say isn’t important or cared about. When your child talks to you, be excited. Smile, clap, give them positive feedback.
-Know yourself. You’re a parent but you’re also a human and sometimes you have days where you’re in a bad mood, stressed out, or just truly not in a space to talk. THIS IS OK! However, children typically have no regard for this as they are typically in their own little world. So if you come home from a rough day at work and your child is chatting up a storm and you know you don’t have it in you to engage them appropriately, tell them that. Explain that in that moment you aren’t able to give your full attention but you really want to hear what they have to say. Encourage them to write it down so they don’t forget, and then when you’re in a better space, invite them to sit and tell you everything then.
-Tell them you love them. There are likely about a million things you do on a daily basis to show your child just how much you love them, but the best way to ensure they know is to tell them. Make this part of your daily dialogue with your children as this is going to make all of the difference for them.
Communication is tricky and you aren’t always going to get it right. You’ll make mistakes, you’ll say the wrong things, you’ll have human moments where you don’t follow any of the above tips. However, if you start working towards overall better communication with your children, that is what is going to make the biggest impact on your relationship with your children.
I would LOVE to know what spoke to you today and encourage you to comment below and share with me! If you loved what you read, be sure to subscribe to my blog to be the first to get new posts!
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