We could all communicate better – with our friends, family, partners and particularly with our children. Read on for expert advice on what to do – and what not to do – to develop better communication with your child and help to ensure a stronger parent-child bond.
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Sally sipped her latte and laughed. As she chatted with her friend, she remembered:
“My little one took my face in her hands, and turned my head towards her. Do you think she was trying to tell me I wasn’t listening to her! Maybe I need to work on my communication skills!”
So often we complain that our children don’t listen to us, but we don’t often (or ever) stop to consider the quality of our own listening.
The fact that Sally’s toddler turned her mother’s head towards her is a healthy sign that her child felt secure enough in her relationship with her parent – that she could indicate what she needed. When a child feels deeply listened to, they feel secure and valued and this impacts their sense of confidence and self-worth, which in turn helps them do better in life.
The good news for every parent is that you can develop better communication with your child. We can all develop deeper communication skills that encourage others to open up, no matter what our age.
Do’s and Don’ts of Communication With Your Child
One key awareness that can make a huge, noticeable difference to the quality of your interactions with your child is to Notice Your Attitude.
Let’s look at three communication attitudes that hinder meaningful communication, and then see the difference that we can make if we want to develop better communication with our children.
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#1. Listening With an Attitude of Criticism or Superiority
Every parent can slip into criticism or superiority sometimes. It’s not only what we say, it’s how we say – the raised eyebrow, the wagging finger, towering over the child rather than coming down to the child’s level, the irritated or condescending tone of voice.
“Johnny, I told you not to!”
“Why don’t you listen!”
How can you shift a critical or superior attitude? Guess what, parents don’t always know best! Sometimes we underestimate our children’s wisdom. What better example of this than young climate activist Greta Thunberg!
When we cut in with an attitude of criticism or superiority, we shut down deeper communication, which means we lose the opportunity to help our children to think more clearly and competently.
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#2. Listening with an Attitude of Resentment
There are days when we feel tired of parenting. Days when we wish we didn’t have to deal with one more diaper, do one more school run or make one more meal. We’re human – things get to all of us sometimes!
The things is, when we are listening with resentment, our kids sense it. They are intuitively aware of the subtle ways we communicate resentment – the sigh, the raised eyebrow, the terse tone of voice. And our children either compromise themselves trying to win our love, or they withdraw.
How can you shift a resentment attitude? Take time each day to think of at least three reasons you love that child. Remind yourself what you love about being a parent. Gratitude naturally replaces resentment.
If you are feeling depressed, you probably aren’t reading this article – we conserve our energy when we can’t cope. However, if at any point you feel that it’s impossible to find a place of inner gratitude, please seek professional help – for your child’s sake and for yours.
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#3 Listening with an Attitude of Indifference
We think we’re listening to our kids whilst we message on our smartphone, check a social media post on the iPad, or quickly send an email. We think we can kid our children that we are listening, but they know our attention is elsewhere. We’re not truly present to them when we are listening with indifference.
How can you shift an indifference attitude? Remember, these years of childhood when your child will share with you so openly, willingly and with such enthusiasm are fleeting. You can never regain these moments. When they’re gone, they’re gone! Your child will find other confidants if they can’t trust you to be there when they need you, in the little ways as well as the major incidents.
Now, here’s the good news…
#4 Listening with an Attitude of Connection
The brilliant news is that by merely being aware of how we want to connect and having an attitude of connection – that we genuinely want to hear about our child’s experience, thoughts and feelings – changes everything.
As humans, we are designed for connection and, deep down, when we focus on this inherent attitude, we intuitively know how to develop better communication with our children. And when we connect with our children, we felt better about our parenting, they feel better about themselves, and they can think more clearly.
When our children feel connected to us they are much more able to process their emotions, which means it’s easier to establish a sense of harmony and cooperation in the home.
Now it’s over to you to try it out. Notice what’s going on for you on the inside and take time to notice your attitude towards communication with your child. Consciously choose an attitude of connection and see what happens!
If you’ve found this blog helpful, you’ll probably love my new online course launching soon! Discover how to enhance your communication skills so that you can engage and motivate your team – your family is a team! Click here to learn more about my online training courses.
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Did you find these tips for better communication with your child helpful? Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!