Communicating With Children

Being able to effectively communicate with children is perhaps one of the most important parenting skills.

It, of course, means investing quality time with the family, especially with the children. And by that, I mean, turn off the TV, keep the iPod away and definitely, get rid of the mobile phone.

Communication with children entails a two-way conversation littered with changing emotional contexts and impulsive behaviours, which requires careful listening, patience and genuine involvement.

Why is it important to spend the time to communicate?

Firstly, children create views influenced by their daily experiences, hence healthy and positive communication experiences allow children to know and understand more about themselves.

Several studies have concluded that the best parent-offspring relationship is fostered by positive interactions. When parents and their children communicate and discuss everything with each other regularly, it creates less conflict, and if there is any conflict, it’s also easier to resolve it.

Research also suggests that when adults show a genuine interest in what children have to say, it creates less aberration in behaviour of action, which requires disciplining.

Nowhere is this more pertinent than in home and school.

Parents and teachers alike must be aware of the fact that their communication method and behaviour has to be appropriate to the age of the child, to build self-esteem and mutual respect.

Here are some basic principles which we can all follow when communicating with children.

·         Listen! And that means, really listen. It gives a clear message to the child that you are interested and involved.
·         If it’s not the end of the world on the news or the family soap opera, then please switch off the TV, or the music, or close the book or paper you are reading, when your child wants to talk to you.
·         Children communicate better in a one-to-one situation, so make that possible by creating a sense of privacy.
·         No one likes to be put on the spot, and children are emotionally sensitive, more than you think, so don’t embarrass or belittle the child in front of others. This will create defensive behaviour bordering on hostility.
·         Always get down to the child’s physical level during a conversation.
·         Sometimes children can be trying and if you lose your cool, don’t communicate till you have regained your composure. A word or two said in heat can cause lasting resentment and regret.
·         I cannot over-emphasize the importance of listening. When the day has been really long and hard, you have to make a greater effort to listen to the child trying to tell his/her story.
·         Do not dismiss suggestions made by your child nonchalantly. For example, refrain from saying things like “Don’t get involved in what others do” or “What’s the sense in that?”
·         Also, avoid using words like stupid, dumb, lazy, etc which will diminish the child’s view of themselves and their self-esteem.
·         Children often make mistakes. Instead of deriding them, what’s more effective is to encourage the child to keep the communication open. There isn’t much point in asking why something happened, knowing and understanding what happened will be rather more fruitful.
·         Children, frequently want to hear words of encouragement and praise. When you use words like great, marvellous, excellent, correct etc, they create a sense of achievement. Children feel loved and appreciated.
·         Finally, while words and the manner in which they are communicated to a child play a crucial role, non verbal communication gestures such as a pat on the back, smile, nod, showing approval, eye contact etc, will help in completing a wholesome interaction with a child.

Children epitomise the behaviour of their parents and teachers. The right model of communication will enable a child to share their thoughts, ideas, opinions and emotions, comfortably and uninhibitedly.