As a parent, raising children has both its rewards and its pitfalls. I have four of my own, and each one has their own unique traits and ways of being. Sometimes they are sweet, open, and honest. Other times, my nerves are being tested in ways I never knew possible. But my commitment is solid: Raise children that understand the importance of interpersonal communication. This means understanding the importance of feelings as well as logic when it comes to communicating with others, especially family.
So, whether your children are just learning to speak or have grown past their teenage years, they want and appreciate your attention. Remember that communication starts with YOU, the parent, not with your child, and while you may feel all is lost, at times, just know that being consistently persistent will bring about the desired result: Open and honest communication that is respected, revered, and admired. Here are a list of things to keep in mind to foster a healthy line of communication, whether in person, or through the hi-tech world:
1) Let your child know that you are interested and involved and that you will help when needed.
2) Turn off the television or put the newspaper down when your child wants to converse.
3) Avoid taking a telephone call when your child has something important to tell you.
4) Unless other people are specifically meant to be included, hold conversations in privacy. The best communication between you and your child will occur when others are not around.
5) Embarrassing your child or putting him on the spot in front of others will lead only to resentment and hostility, not good communication.
6) Don't tower over your child. Physically get down to their level and then talk.
7) If you are very angry about a behavior or an incident, don't attempt communication until you regain your cool, because you cannot be objective until then. It is better to stop, settle down, and talk to your child later.
8) If you are very tired, you will have to make an extra effort to be an active listener. Genuine active listening is hard work and is very difficult when your mind and body are already tired.
9) Listen carefully and politely. Don't interrupt your child when he is trying to tell his story. Be as courteous to your child as you would be to your best friend. Please and thank you are still expected throughout life.
10) Don't be a wipe-out artist, unraveling minor threads of a story and never allowing your child's own theme to develop. This is the parent who reacts to the incidentals of a message while the main idea is list: i.e., the child starts to tell about what happened and the parent says, "I don't care what they are doing, but you had better not be involved in anything like that."
11) Don't ask why something occurred that you didn't appreciate, but do ask what happened.
12) If you have knowledge of a situation that isn't acceptable, confront your child with the information that you know or have been told, but don't do it to catch them in a lie. In other words, don't confront your child by asking if they did something, just come out with what you know, and ask what was going on to discover why it happened.
13) Keep "adult talking", such as: "You'll talk when I'm finished"; "I know what's best for you"; "Just do what I say and that will solve the problem"; preaching and moralizing to a minimum because they are not helpful in getting communication open and keeping it open.
14) Don't use put-down words or statements: dumb, stupid, lazy: "Come on stupid, that makes no sense at all" or "What do you know, you're just a child." Instead, appreciate their sense of understanding, even if it doesn't make sense to you, and then explain your side and why you believe it to be more important.
15) Assist your child in planning some specific steps to the solution.
16) Show acceptance of your child, regardless of what he has or has not done.
17) Reinforce your child for keeping communication open. Do this by accepting him and praising their efforts to communicate.
Remember that you are the parent. Your children look up to you, even when grown up, to set an example of how to be, and like it or not, you are also setting the ground work of who they will be as parents themselves. You deserve respect as a parent, but if you shut out, shut down, or disregard your child as unworthy of your attention or, even worse, their own thoughts, they will build resentment, distrust, and end up acting out in negative ways. Lastly, putting your foot down in certain circumstances is OK when appropriate, but only if you see the actual harm that will be caused to your child.
In the end, we are humans that need to communicate and socialize with one another. This list of ways to communicate will help build a strong foundation for your children to grow up with strong self worth and a comfortable sense of communication with others.