“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” – Carol Buchner (teacher)
Most parents want their children to grow up to be successful and happy individuals. However, this will largely depend on the parenting skills of the parents. One parenting skill that is very important is the ability to communicate with a child in an effective manner.
Communication is usually thought of as the spoken word. However, non-verbal messages can speak just as loudly, such as the messages we send through our facial expressions, the gestures we make with our hands, our posture, and other forms of body language. Para-verbal communication refers to the messages that are sent by the tone and pitch of the spoken word.
Effective Communication for Parents: Beginnings
Communication starts from the moment a child comes into the world. When it is handed off to its mother, a comforting message is sent to the newborn. The baby communicates its needs by crying. In the beginning, most of the communication between a parent and a child is primarily through non-verbal messages. At this early stage, what matters most is to reassure the baby that the world is a safe place to be in and that he or she will be loved and taken care of.
Effective Communication for Parents: Next Steps
• Reinforce Good Behavior: As Dr. Lynne Kenney says “Children need a pond in which to fish for good behavior, so notice what your children do well”. Good behavior should always be praised and reinforced, but make sure your praise is honest and specific. This is most effective.
• Watch that attitude! Yours! Also, check that your attitude is positive when you are communicating. Listen to how you are speaking to your child (not just the words, but the tone of voice you are using, as well as your body language). Are your words nagging, reprimanding and intimidating? Or do they convey a sense of caring and interest in what is going on in the child’s life?
• Get off your high-horse: Don’t talk down to your child. Treat them with respect if you want to be respected in return. They are growing up and should feel like they are entitled at least to be heard and to have their opinions respected.
• Assume nothing: Don’t make any assumptions. If you are unsure about what has just been said, ask!
• Positive Discipline: When a younger child is told to “stop” and the parent is ignored, the parent should take the child gently by the shoulders, make eye contact, and then repeat the command again. Many parents repeat a command over and over. It is said that children learn how many times they will hear “stop” before the parent is truly sincere. What’s important is that an effective discipline plan should be devised and used consistently. Wishy-washy disciplinary methods are harmful to the child. This is true for older children as well.
• Listening: The most important thing is to listen to the child. Even if what they have to say appears to be trivial in the eyes of the parent, it is not trivial to the child. If a parent notices that a child seems troubled, communication should be initiated by the parent. Some children are reluctant to talk about things, especially when they become teenagers. Listening to a child as they are growing up will not only open your eyes to what a truly wonderful son or daughter you have, but will also give you the opportunity to participate in their lives and offer them a helping hand or a shoulder to cry on when they need it.
They say that when you are in the presence of a child you become their teacher. Teach them good things and use effective communication skills to help get your message through. While parenting skills consist of many things, effective communication is one of the most beneficial for you to master.
Don’t miss this video about How to Communicate Effectively with your Child: