By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.
The cardinal rule of parenting is effective communication. As a parent, your goal in talking with your child is to promote his/her intellectual, emotional, moral, and spiritual growth. With an increase in the number of parents working outside the home, children spend more time under the care of a non-parent. Eventually, most children end up spending more time in front of television, computer or video games rather than with parents and other members of the family.
Talking is one of the main tools through which you can share information with your children, strengthen your inter-personal relationships, help them understand and deal with their emotions, and pass on to them values, beliefs, and hopes. These and other factors in our culture make parent-child talk essential part of our day to day life.
Following are some suggestions to improve communication between you and your child:
1. Listen, listen, listen: As a parent, you tend to get preachy and authoritative at most times. You do not give your child a chance to relate his/her side of the story, which causes him to shut up completely. Do not prejudge your child's explanation. Make sure that you hear him/her out before you reach a conclusion. Leave aside whatever you are doing, and give your child some of your time to listen what he/she has to say. Listen with your eyes, ears and heart. Look for non-verbal gestures- it's reading that which is communicated "between the lines." Confirm with your child what you perceive so that you truly understand his/her thoughts and feelings.
2. Be interested: Show interest in what is happening in your child's life. However, be sure not to pry too much so as to invade his/her privacy. Ask them about their friends, interests, school life, etc. A child who is unsupervised or who has a parent that doesn't show an interest in his/her activities, is likely to shut down and internalize his/her feelings. The child may look for other avenues of acceptance, which could be negative influences.
3. Talk; don't argue: Don't fall into the trap of petty arguments. That will not help you achieve any fruitful results. If a conversation turns into an argument, end it. Separate. Agree to revisit the issue when you both cool down and feel you can return to a civil discussion of the facts. When talking with your child, use language that he/she will understand. Don't assume he/she will follow your reasoning or understand the meaning of abstract words. The younger the child, the more brief, direct, concrete, and specific you will need to be.
It is sometimes helpful to talk about important topics such as sex, drugs, death, religion, etc. with your child before he has to deal with them on his own. You can play an important role in providing correct information and helping your child develop his own ideas and values about such important topics.
4. Learn when to stop: Children have short attention span. Do not bore them with long discussions. As they grow older, their capacity to attend to longer conversations will increase. Until then, stop when you have made your point.
5. Don't use silence as a weapon: Silence does not mean you are being neutral. If you do not assign any meaning to your response, children are likely to assign a negative meaning and will not get a clear message. You must be honest about your motives and resist the temptation to hide behind silence.
Encourage open and honest communication by holding family meetings where everyone has an equal chance of expressing himself / herself. The more your child talks with you, the less likely it is for him/her to get in trouble.
Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center, http://www.startingadaycarecenter.com.