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Talking With Your Children – Top 10 Tips
• Listen. A basic problem that arises when talking with your children is a lack of listening. True communication is a two-way street, a dialogue, an interchange. However, when one person is talking and the other doesn’t get a word in edgewise, then it’s a lecture. When one person talks and the other discounts what is being said, it’s a dead-end. When one listens while the other talks, then the chance for understanding is in sight!
• Respond, don’t react. What’s the difference? When you react, you reflect your own experiences and feelings onto what you have just heard. When you respond, you get in touch with the thoughts and feelings of what your children tell you. When your children are trying to tell you something, it is crucial that you respond and not react. When you react, you lose the opportunity to communicate. Because, when you react, you tend to talk; when you talk, it’s hard to listen.
• Try to see things from your child’s perspective. You and your children view the world through very different eyes. The way your children interpret a situation and the way you do can be light-years apart. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that you and they were even in the same room at the time! However, their different stories are indications of how they experienced the particular event. And that’s really all they have–their own perspective. When talking with your children, listen to their perspective, because this is their reality. And realities can differ dramatically.
• Let them know that what they have to say is important. Giving undivided attention and allowing them to talk without interruption or judgment shows that you really care about what your children have to say. Thanking them, or expressing your pleasure in their talking with you will go a long way in making them feel as though you care.
• Talk with them on their level. When talking with your children, it is important to use language that they understand, as well as the same respectful tone of voice you use with friends. Literally come down to their level if they are young or little and look directly at them while they talk.
• Keep the lines of communication open. Open-ended questions and inquiries of clarification can keep communication going. Express a desire to know more, but not in an interrogatory way! Ask questions that show interest and desire to really understand their experiences. And if you are talking with your children and they become frustrated, tell them that you are really interested in what they are saying, so please help you understand. Oh, and overreacting is a sure-fire way to close down communication instantaneously.
• Find opportunities to have conversations. There are different times and places that communication can occur. If your children know that you are available to them, they may feel more comfortable approaching you and visa versa. Time alone in the car, tucking in at bedtime or after the younger siblings go to bed may be opportune times to talk. If your child wants to talk at an inopportune time, be sure to explain why you need to postpone, and make a time to get back together when you are able to give your full, undivided attention.
• Agree to disagree. Not every conversation, argument or discussion needs to have a victor. The purpose of communication is to exchange ideas and understand perspectives. If the purpose is control or a power struggle, then you both lose. Outside of debate club, communication should not be a competitive sport.
• Recognize the power of words. Depending upon your tone, volume and body language, anything you say while talking with your children can take on numerous meanings. These variables can convey very different messages. For example, an otherwise neutral sentence like, “Oh, you cleaned your room,” can take on dramatically different meanings depending upon whether it was said in a sarcastic, teasing, judging, minimizing, praising, analyzing or interrogating manner.
• Laugh together. Parents tend to fall into the trap. You know–the one that grabs you and makes you take everything so seriously. When your children are trying to tell you something, sit back and just listen. You don’t need to don your serious parental persona all the time. Laughter can lighten the load, and create great opportunities to communicate with your children. When’ the last time you had a good belly laugh? When’s the last time you heard your children laugh? And when’s the last time you laughed with them?
Talking with your children can bring you closer together if you follow these basic Top 10 Tips.
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