Talk to your children – Top 10 tips
• I’m listening. A major problem that arises when you talk to your children is the lack of listening. True communication is a two-way street, a dialogue, an exchange. However, when one speaks and the other does not get a word, then it is a lecture. When one person speaks and the other rejects what is said, it is a stalemate. When one listens while the other speaks, then the chance of understanding is at hand!
• Respond, don’t react. What is the difference? When you react, you are reflecting your own experiences and feelings on what you have just heard. When you respond, you are getting in touch with the thoughts and feelings of what your children are telling you. When your children try to tell you something, it’s important to respond, not react. When you react, you lose the ability to communicate. Because when you react, you tend to talk; when you talk, it’s hard to listen.
• Try to see things from your child’s point of view. You and your children see the world through very different eyes. The way your children interpret a situation and the way you do may be light years apart. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that you and they were even in the same room at the time! However, their different stories are indications of how they experienced the particular event. And that’s really all they have – their own perspective. When you talk to your children, listen to their perspective because it is their reality. And the realities can differ dramatically.
• Let them know that what they have to say is important. Giving them your undivided attention and letting them talk without interruption or judgment shows that you really care about what your kids have to say. By thanking them or expressing your enjoyment of their conversation with you, you’ll help them feel like you care.
• Talk to them on their level. When you talk to your children, it’s important to use language they understand, as well as the same respectful tone of voice you use with friends. Literally get down to their level if they are little or small and look right into them while they are talking.
• Keep the lines of communication open. Open-ended questions and requests for clarification can keep communication going. Express a desire to know more, but not in a questioning way! Ask questions that show interest and a desire to really understand their experiences. And if you’re talking to your kids and they get frustrated, tell them you really care about what they’re saying, so please help them understand. Oh, and overreacting is a surefire way to immediately cut off communication.
• Find conversation opportunities. There are different times and places where communication can take place. If your kids know you’re there for them, they may feel more comfortable reaching out to you, and vice versa. Time alone in the car, getting home before bed, or after younger siblings go to bed can be good times to talk. If your child wants you to talk at an inappropriate time, be sure to explain why you need to delay and find a time to regroup when you can give your full, undivided attention.
• Agree to disagree. Not every conversation, argument or discussion has to have a winner. The purpose of communication is to exchange ideas and understand perspectives. If the goal is control or a power struggle, then you both lose. Outside of the debate club, communication should not be a competitive sport.
• Recognize the power of words. Depending on your tone, volume, and body language, anything you say while talking to your children can take on multiple meanings. These variables can convey many different messages. For example, an otherwise neutral sentence like “Oh, you cleaned your room” can take on dramatically different meanings depending on whether it is said in a sarcastic, teasing, judgmental, minimizing, praising, analyzing, or questioning manner.
• Laugh together. Parents tend to fall into the trap. You know – the one that grabs you and makes you take everything so seriously. When your kids are trying to tell you something, sit back and just listen. You don’t have to wear your serious parent face all the time. Laughter can lighten the load and create wonderful opportunities to bond with your children. When was the last time you had a good laugh? When was the last time you heard your children laugh? And when was the last time you laughed with them?
Conversations with your children can bring you closer if you follow these top 10 basic tips.
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