One of the most frustrating challenges we face as parents is communicating effectively with our child. Though parents strive to open an honest two-way line of communication with their child, most become frustrated when it appears that their child’s attention is not focused on the conversation. Children are by nature easily distracted and not always responsive to their environment. Parents must emphasize positive patterns of communication and ensure that their child learns that ignoring communication is unacceptable. Here are our tips for how to communicate with your child.
If you are struggling to communicate effectively with your child, try these four tips:
- Lead by example.
Kids learn through imitation and develop most of their behaviors based on how their parents act. When communicating with your child, remain completely and totally focused on them and the conversation at hand. Turn off the television, ignore incoming calls or go into a room where there are no distractions. Likewise, watch how you react to their words and behaviors. If you tend to yell at your child when they are not listening they will likely begin to yell at you too. If you respond to your child with vague affirmations (“Unh-huh.”) while engaged in another activity, your child is not likely to learn how to give others their full attention.
- Talk to your child.
Explain to them in age-appropriate terms how they are communicating and why their methods are not working. Offer them appropriate alternatives and reinforce positive communication. For example, your child may demand that you get them something to eat by saying, “Get me a cookie!” You can model an appropriate way of asking, “That’s not a very nice way to ask. You could say, ‘Can I have a cookie, please?’”, and give them the cookie when they repeat your example.
- Be an active listener.
Active listening requires that you concentrate on what your child is saying, understand what they are trying to tell you and respond in constructive and helpful ways. In order to be an active listener you need to pay attention to your child while putting aside your own feelings, concerns and opinions. Ask questions to clarify what your child is telling you and to show them that you are trying to understand their point of view.
- Be sensitive to their thoughts and feelings.
When you judge and criticize your child they will likely stop sharing their thoughts and feelings and open communication will break down. They will not want to talk to you if they receive only negative feedback. Use the active listening skills mentioned above, assure your child that you are trying to understand what they are telling you and try to work with them to find a resolution. Never invalidate their concerns.
It is perfectly normal for children to become distracted or non-communicative. As their parent, you are the expert in knowing your child’s behavior and can best judge the improvement in their communication. As the adult, it is your responsibility to model appropriate communication and guide through the process of developing proper communication skills. The absolute best way to ensure healthy communication patterns is to model positive communication skills.