Someone once said that having a child does not transform one into a parent, just like having a piano does not transform one into a pianist. Being a parent is also a form of learning that is sometimes not easy. Our children grow, observe, deduce, and create their personality, their own world, where we are not always allowed to enter. Knowing what goes through their head, reaching understanding and positive agreements is a matter of communication.
In general, we lack the time to speak with our children, or rather, we do not dedicate the time or interest it deserves. There are many excuses when communication is nonexistent: work outside and within the home, fatigue, lack of opportune moments, dedication to other “occupations” such as the television or the computer, or a lack of communication skills – the “I don’t know how to speak to them so they’ll understand”. Nevertheless, excuses aside, the truth is that all children of all ages need to speak and communicate with their parents. Let’s not forget that their family is their reference point with regards to values, and a safe place where they can admit their mistakes and overcome their frustrations.
A dialogue is more effective than a lecture
Something that may seem so obvious, such as listening when they speak, is not as common between parents and children. Some parents turn a dialogue into a monologue; they present their reasons and give opinions, without listening to their children or giving them the possibility to respond. Children, once they realize, eventually lose motivation, disconnect, or escape by acting evasive. Respecting silence and allowing the other person time to understand what has been said and interpret what was meant is a basic characteristic. This situation is frequent, mostly with adolescents: parents adopt an inquisitive attitude over their children’s arguments believing that a lecture will eventually convince them. It does not usually work.
Children have a greater need for models than criticisms. Let’s not worry as much about them not listening and worry more about them watching us.
Be careful with sending mixed messages, they catch it all
We must ensure that what is being said is coherent with the way in which it is being said. A lack of trust is created when we send a contradictory message with our eyes, our posture, or our gestures in relation to our words. Thus, if the child has done something wrong unintentionally and their father says in a conciliatory way “I know you did not act deliberately and I am not angry, but you have to be more careful”, but he says it with a frown and in a dry and cutting tone of voice, the child will surely not believe him.
Some tips to improve parent-child communication:
- Listen to your child whenever they need it and do not put off their confidences. Answer the questions they may have and try to find answers appropriate to their level.
- Listen carefully and look them in the eyes. Prove through your attitude that you are paying attention and are interested in their lives: their friends, their classes, their desires and worries.
- Make an effort to put yourself in their place. Being empathetic does not mean being soft or too lenient.
- Share hobbies with them. Relaxed moments are the best ones for conversation. Take advantage of dinner time, around the table, or breakfast over the weekend.
- Communication is reciprocal – you should communicate as well. Show them your opinions and expose your feelings. If you are able to create an atmosphere of complicity, it will be easier for them to open up to you.
Communicating with our children creates an emotional bond that connects us with them beyond a blood relationship and which can also be the key to prevent many future problems. However, it is not a closeness that can be achieved from one day to another, but instead we have to begin with dialogue, speaking, communicating, while they are still young. All in all, it is never too late to start…
Sources and more information:
Spanish Pediatric Association http://www.aeped.es ; María Luisa Ferrerós (child psychologist)