Communication is the most important tool in the relationship between a parent and child, according to psychotherapist Joanne Stern, author of “Parenting is a Contact Sport.” Communication can make or break the relationship between you and your child. By eliminating the barriers to communication with your child, you can improve your relationship in the short and long term.
Effective communication can make your relationship with your child clear and productive. Clear communication can help you establish limits and consequences for your child, express to your child that you love her unconditionally, let her know you are there for her and that she can count on you. Through active listening, you can learn about your child, find out what she needs from you and how she needs those needs met.
Failure to Communicate
Offending a person by causing anger, frustration or disappointment creates a barrier to communication, according to family counselor Gary Smalley in his book, “The Key to Your Child’s Heart.” If this happens between you and your child, your child might refuse to listen to you, rebuff your attempts to touch him, defy you and argue with you. The demands of your life are also a barrier to communication, especially if you’re always at work, on the phone or on the computer when your child wants to talk to you, according to the Child Development Institute. If you behave as though the topics your child wants to talk about make you uncomfortable or angry, your child might decide that honest communication with you isn’t possible.
Communication occurs through more channels than words, and it's best when you and your child can fully connect on all channels. Those additional channels include body language, tone and inflection, physical affection and written communication. You could stay in contact with your child via text, email or social media when you aren't in the same room or you could leave notes in your child’s lunch, backpack or under a pillow. Notes let your child know that she is on your mind. Written words don’t communicate inflection well, so it’s easier to miss part of the message, which might not happen if you communicate face-to-face. However, if you’ve hurt your child unintentionally, a written message can open the door to reconciliation when you talk in person.
When you speak with your child, maintain eye contact and sit or stand at eye level. Use the same respectful tones that you want to hear. You can use gentle, loving touch with your words. If you are unclear about what your child is trying to tell you, ask questions until you are clear. Be a good listener by paying close attention to what your child is saying rather than trying to decide what you will say next. Some words are better said privately, rather than in front of family, friends or others.
- Psychology Today: Avoiding Three Traps for Good Parent-Child Communication
- The Key to Your Child’s Heart; Dr. Gary Smalley
- Child Development Institute: Guidelines for Parent/Child Communication
- How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk; Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
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