Parenting is essentially grounded in the art of communication – from the day our children are born, we are communicators with them.
Our communication is present in many different forms – verbal, facial expression, body language, and even mood.
Additionally, children base their views of themselves and the world around them through their daily experiences and the people they interact with.
One of the most important experiences adults can provide to young children is to talk and listen to them.
Through interactions, children and adults develop relationships that help children learn about the world.
Thus, it is the responsibility of parents, teachers, and caregivers to create and maintain positive, and healthy relationships with children.
This begins with positive communication!
Tips for positive communication:
• Encourage them to talk to you so they can tell you what they’re feeling and thinking – ask them questions about how they feel, how their day was, etc.
• Be able to really listen and respond in a sensitive way to all kinds of things – not just nice things or good news, but also anger, embarrassment, sadness and fear – children need their feelings validated
• Know that you might not agree with what your child might say. Sometimes, it might make you feel frustrated!
• Focus on body language and tone as well as words so you can really understand what children are saying
• Consider how you react – try to remain calm and neutral before you respond
• Try to put yourself in your child’s shoes – what is their viewpoint?
Why is positive communication important?
• Researchers believe that when adults stay in touch with children through attention and conversation, children might be less likely to act out or behave in ways that create conflict or require discipline.
• Communicating well with children improves your bond with them, and encourages them to listen to you.
Tips for being an active listener to your child:
• Build on what your child is telling you and show your interest by saying things like ‘Tell me more about …’, ‘Really!’ and ‘Go on …’. This sends your child the message that what he has to say is important to you.
• Watch your child’s facial expressions and body language. Listening isn’t just about hearing words, but also about trying to understand what’s behind those words.
• To let your child know you’re listening, and to make sure you’ve really understood the important messages she’s telling you, repeat back what your child has said and make lots of eye contact.
• Try not to jump in, cut your child off, or put words in his mouth – even when he says something that sounds ridiculous or wrong or is having trouble finding the words.
• Don’t rush into problem-solving. Your child might just want you to listen, and to feel that her feelings and point of view matter to someone.
• Prompt your child to tell you how he feels about things – for example, ‘It sounds like you felt left out when Felix wanted to play with those other kids at lunch’. Be prepared to get this wrong, and ask him to help you understand.
How to encourage your child to listen:
• Let your child finish talking and then respond. This sets a good example of listening for your child.
• Use language and ideas that your child will understand. It can be hard for your child to keep paying attention if he doesn’t understand what you’re talking about.
• Make any instructions and requests simple and clear to match your child’s age and ability.
• Avoid criticism and blame. If you’re angry about something your child has done, try to explain why you want her not to do it again. Appeal to her sense of empathy.
• Be a good role model. Your child learns how to communicate by watching you carefully. When you talk with your child (and others) in a respectful way, this gives a powerful message about positive communication.
Remember that communication is a back and forth, reciprocal process that involves both parents and children!
Thank you to our friends at Cadence Academy for the tips.
Rhode Show Content Disclaimer: The information, advice and answers displayed in The Rhode Show section of WPRI.com are those of individual sponsors and guests and not WPRI-TV/Nexstar Media Group, Inc. WPRI.com presents this content on behalf of each participating Rhode Show sponsor. Sponsored content is copyrighted to its respective sponsor unless otherwise indicated.