Guest Post| How to Communicate With Kids Effectively

When I was younger, I had a wonderful relationship with my Mother. Growing up it was only my mother and myself, I lost my father when I was 4. We had a bond that was unbreakable, and communication was a large part of this bond. Communicating with our children should come easy to us, but too often miscommunication seems to be stopping it. It seems in today’s society there is a lot of judgment towards people’s weight, how they dress, are they popular, their financial situation, and so many other attacks on their character and physical appearance.

There were times with my daughter, a simple comment or statement by me as a way of starting a conversation had been completely turned around. While we are only trying to keep lines of communication open in what we feel is a way of showing them we care, we notice, their reactions seem to indicate that we are speaking a different language. 

“That’s a nice sweater you’re wearing.” Storms off and slams door assuming I didn’t like it. (Me in my head: What???) 

“What did you have for lunch today?” Thinks I am attacking her diet, and her weight. (Thinking to myself: Are you crazy??) 

It seems there will always be times our children misinterpret what is being said by us, but if we can improve on our verbal skills as well as our listening skills, we can open a better line of communication: With much less door slamming. Lol.

Our children hit an age where they are becoming more social and a bigger part of society. Their reach is further than the four walls that enclose our home. They have school, jobs, outside or after-school programs, they are gaining new friends: outside influences seem to put a slight crack in the foundation we spent years building. It is up to you to keep filling that crack and retaining that bond. It is so important that you talk with your children every day and keep them engaged with sharing their ideas, their opinions, and information about the life outside your home. 

TALKING TO YOUR CHILD: 

Open the lines of communication by getting their opinion on the way the two of you talk together. Ask for their opinion: Do they feel you don’t understand what they are saying? Do they feel you aren’t listening? Make sure they know that their opinion with how you communicate together does matter and you would love to know what they think. This is a great opportunity to discuss what bothers them and how you can approach these situations differently, in a way they feel would create fewer arguments and in a way would make them more at ease. 

Do not allow yourself to become upset or offended if they feel you or your comments are “annoying”. Instead, ask them why they feel that way and if there is a better way you could deal with situations in the future. I am not saying that their word is gold, or that we need to follow their lead. I am implying that to keep your relationship and communication strong, you could together find a common way to deal with situations together. You may need to develop a thicker skin for this one. 

CHOOSING YOUR BATTLES CAREFULLY:

Each child is unique in their own way. Behaviors can also vary based on factors from their day and outside influencers. They may come home tired, stressed, or upset from a friend or incident in school: they may have the mindset that today is the day to push every button to test your limits. Of course this is going to lead to an exhausting battle while you try to gain control of an out of control situation. 

Try to focus your energy on the battles that will make a difference. Allow them a little independence. If you find they are battling you over something that maybe isn’t a situation that could cause harm to anyone, you may show them some respect and hold the conversation at a time when they will be more receptive to it. If however, the discussion is revolved around a situation that endangers them or anyone else, it is definitely time to step in. If they are in danger, if you feel there are drugs involved, bullying, or situations of that nature, the challenge has to be addressed at once. Otherwise, decide if the conversation can be held at a more relaxed time. 

DON’T OVER REACT TO SMALL THINGS: 

Most children inherently know when their actions are not acceptable, yet they are determined to see how far they can push the boundaries before action is taken. While researching this I came across an article in American Academy of Pediatrics that stated “Parents who can remain calm during an outburst can actually drive down the number of times their child tests them.” 

I also read that it is normal for children to express feelings by acting out and that you should never “reward” this behavior by getting upset or angry. If you show disappointment or anger every time they act up, and respond to them thru yelling, they will eventually tune you out and now you are facing a harder time reaching them the next time. 

TAKE SOME TIME TO CALM DOWN: 

Taking time to calm down is always best before confronting any situation that has your blood pressure up. Yelling does no good: no one listens. We all know that yelling is a common reaction when initially faced with a conflicting situation. Letting your blood pressure come down and taking time to relax and think before you speak will stop you from making rash decisions and taking actions that you may not have considered in a calmer state. It deters you from making choices or handing out a punishment that is out of line for the situation. Keep yourself in check, calm down, and rationally discuss the wrongs of the situation that caused your anger. 

BE A POSITIVE ROLE MODEL: 

I always try to present myself as a positive role model to my children. By remaining positive, calm, and open to discussion, you are providing your child with reinforcement of an acceptable behavior. Be dependable in your reactions and communication abilities. Put down the phone, close the book, whatever you are doing and create an environment that welcomes them to hold a discussion with you. 

LAST MINUTE TIPS: 

 Make sure you are taking time to talk to your child about their activities during their day. Let them know thru your actions that you are actively listening and are genuinely interested to what goes on in their lives. 
 Remember when having a discussion with your child in a heated or angry moment that you are speaking TO your child – not AT your child. 
 One thing I always practiced with my children was never passing judgment during any initial conversation. They may have done something I thought was careless, or used poor judgment on their part, but that was not the time for me to point this out. I listened to what they wanted to share without interruption. Assured them regardless of their actions they were loved, and we would talk tomorrow. It was then, that I would share my thoughts on the situation, having taken the time to find positive ways to express my feelings, even if my feelings weren’t positive.
 When having discussions with your child, make sure you are asking questions that need more than a yes or no answer. This ensures you have a conversation with a much deeper meaning. 
 Some great places to start a conversation is at the dinner table (I always enforced we sit at the table and eat as a family) or you can take advantage of car trips. 
 The last piece of advice I can give is make sure you are always clearing your calendar for any school event they may be involved in. Clear your calendar for any life event they want to include you. These are moments or discussions that will hold great memories. 

Challenge yourself to keep the lines of communication open with your children. When you extend yourself to keep that relationship healthy, the rewards are priceless. My daughter is now 21, an amazing young woman, and my best friend. It All Starts With You.

Please take a moment to meet our guest blogger:

Nancy Mulligan

Myeverydaychallenges.com

Facebook.com/myeverydaychallenges

Instagram.com/myeverydaychallenges

Twitter.com/30days30ways

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