We all know that communication is important in creating healthy family
relationships. Parents are aware of the need to communicate to their
children about how to stay healthy, safe, and to develop a sense of
responsibility. Just as essential, but more often neglected, is
developing and practicing good listening skills as a parent.
Communication is a two-way street. For children to listen to you, they
must also feel heard. Being a good listener will promote your child’s
ability to talk openly with you about problems and needs. It will also
enhance your child’s self-esteem and build a loving feeling of
connectedness between you and your child. So, how do we effectively
communicate with our children?
1. Take time. Spend regular time with your child. This will emphasize your
child’s importance and your availability to your child. This should not
just be time running errands or taking your child to soccer practice.
Your child is a priority and quiet time alone with your child is too.
This will set the stage for communication.
Listen. When your child is upset about something, just listen. Don’t
interrupt when your child is talking. Don’t try to solve problems or
give advice. Your job is simply to understand what your child is
saying. When your child has finished talking, you can summarize what
has been said in an attempt to gain better understanding. Ask if you
have understood and if there is anything more your child would like to
3. Provide support. Ask
how your child is feeling about things. Emotions are never wrong. Make
an attempt to understand your child’s feelings. Verify that you
understand. Whether you share your child’s feelings or not, be sure to
communicate that the feelings your child is having are valid.
Be clear and consistent. Be sure your actions match your words. Don’t
give mixed signals. Don’t laugh while you tell your child “No.” Follow
through on limits and consequences you have set. Otherwise, you will be
teaching your child to ignore what you say.
Be calm. Shouting at your child says that you are out of control. It
also models poor communication skills. Stay calm when talking with your
child. If you feel that you are too angry to talk calmly at the moment,
give yourself time to take a break and talk about it later. You will be
more effective when you can think clearly.
Take responsibility for your feelings. Your reaction to others’ actions
is just that, your reaction. Take responsibility for your own feelings
by making use of the word “I”. For example, “I felt worried when you
didn’t come home on time.” rather than “You are so irresponsible.” This
is more likely to generate understanding from your child than
7. Give credit
when due. When your child behaves as you would like, give positive
feedback. Focus on responsible behavior and accomplishments. Your child
is more likely to listen to you when negative feedback is balanced with
8. Keep things in
perspective. Stay focused on the big picture. No one is perfect…not
you, not your child. While you want to set high goals for your child,
don’t communicate expectations that are unrealistic. Success breeds
further success. Be sure the goals you communicate to your child are