Our Guide To Communicating With Children Effectively
Communicating with children effectively can seem daunting.
Parenting is not just about feeding, dressing, and cleaning a child. It’s easy to get caught up in making sure your child is being exposed to enough language, learning materials, not too much screen time etc. Most of what they learn actually comes directly from communicating with their carers. Communicating with children effectively can be easy. It does take some practice though and it’s worth keeping a few key points in mind:
- ‘Children become what they are told they are’- Dorothy DeLay. Tell your child all the positive virtues you see in them. Hearing every day that they are kind, helpful, friendly, creative, etc will nurture those traits and encourage your child to value them in themselves and others.
- Use your manners; lead by example. It’s no good expecting your child to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ if the adults they look up to don’t do the same. Be polite to others and to your child and they will see it as the normal thing to do.
- Ask about their feelings, their experiences, their thoughts, etc. Open up a dialogue with them using open-ended questions such as ‘What did you like most about today?’ ‘How did this make you feel?’ ‘Why do you think this happened?’. Giving children the opportunity to express what they are thinking and feeling helps them to organize everything going on in their mind and makes them feel included and important.
- Celebrate effort as well as an achievement but try not to fall into the trap of giving empty praise. Encourage your child to strive for success but also to not be afraid to fail. Let them know that the effort they put in when they try is appreciated and that you believe in their ability. In every failure, there is a lesson and how they handle these times will set them up for the future.
- Take responsibility for your mistakes and apologize when necessary. If your child sees you lie or try to cover up wrongdoings, not only will they lose trust in you but they are likely to do the same, which will make communicating with children effectively in the future more difficult.
- Tell them the things you appreciate them doing to reinforce that behavior without incentives. Let them know that you appreciate it when they share or help you tidy up, etc. Everyone feels good when they make others feel good!
- BE POSITIVE! Foster a ‘glass half full’ mentality in your child to help them get the most from life. It will also help them to better handle the hard times. When it is raining, comment on how the plants and flowers will be having a big drink and growing strong. When you have to wait in the doctor’s office it is an opportunity to chat and have some quiet time together. Try to find the positive in every situation, it will lift your own mood too and make communicating with children easier.
- Tell them that you like having them around. That you’re grateful to have them in your life, and of course that you love them. Remember to also show this appreciation to other family members and loved ones and most importantly, yourself. A positive self-image is something that is built from very early on in a child’s life.
- Encourage self-appraisal over seeking praise from others- when they ask ‘do you like my art?’. Tell them what you like about it (eg: I like the colors you’ve used, you worked hard on it, etc.) But also ask what they like about it and why they’re proud of it.
- Make sure it’s clear that your opinion is just that and explain why you think or feel that way. Your child will be exposed to many conflicting opinions over their life and you can’t and shouldn’t protect them from ones opposing yours. Give them all the information, encourage them to think objectively, and empower them to form their own opinions.
Tags: advice for parents, communicating with children, Communication, parenting advice