A must read excerpt from Pradeep Kapoor and Neelkamal Kapoor's Ultimate Guide to Modern Parenting: Raising A Winner With Expert Tips And A Little Common Sense
The ability to communicate effectively has made humans the most successful race on earth.
Communication with children has two distinct aspects to it: Quantity and quality.
Both are important for the development of a balanced personality. Both, lack of communication and faulty communication can adversely affect the child's psyche.
Lack of communication
Children grow up so fast that parents who lose the opportunity of communicating with them when they were young, may never find meaningful and warm relationships with them in later life.
Lack of communication between parents and children is the bane of modern society.
The more successful the parents, the more preoccupied they are with their careers and social engagements.
Naturally, in spite of their sincere efforts, they are unable to find sufficient time for their children.
TV is also an important factor that contributes to decreasing communication within the family.
Most middle class families spend their entire evenings watching neverending serials, while children remain glued to the screen waiting eagerly for the so called 'short breaks' when the advertisements are aired.
The communication-deprived children suffer from delayed speech development and show poor social adjustment capabilities.
Their academic performance is also below par. The more you talk to and interact with your child, the faster her brain matures.
Children who have prolonged and frequent contact with their parents not only show a higher IQ, but are also more emotionally stable and socially successful.
This is perhaps even more damaging to the child's psychosocial development than mere lack of communication.
Parents can alienate their children by their thoughtless uttering, thereby closing all channels for future communication.
Unfortunately many parents don't realize the importance of proper communication with their children.
Their communication sessions with children generally end up as sermons or arguments.
The worst offenders are parents whose interaction with their children are inadequate as well as inappropriate.
Good communication skills are the basis of any successful relationship, whether between husband and wife or parents and children.
Many parents face problems while communicating with their children. Knowledge of certain techniques can greatly improve their communication skills.
We hope the following tips will help parents to communicate better with their children:
Communication = Talking + Listening
The most common mistake that parents make is that they talk, but never listen.
While communicating, the flow of ideas and thoughts should necessarily be bidirectional, otherwise it becomes a lecture.
The child must know that when you finish talking, he will get a chance to speak. Try listening actively.
Make encouraging gestures and sounds -- nod your head and say 'yes', 'all right' and 'that's fine'.
Avoid: 'You listen to me.'
Try: 'I want you to listen to me first, and then you can speak and I'll listen.'
Don't Begin with an Accusation
If you start the conversation with an accusation, the child will end it with a brief refusal.
If your opening line is: 'Why did you break the wall clock?', the most likely answer you'll get is: 'I didn't'
A better way to approach the situation would be to ask: 'How did the clock break?' This will get the conversation going, and you will receive a detailed account of the events leading to the breaking of the clock. You can also utilize this opportunity to teach the child to be more responsible in the future.
Avoid: 'I don't believe you.'
Try: 'Promise not to lie and I'll believe you.'
Avoid Flowery Language
Reserve your eloquence for boardroom meetings, farewell parties and the like.
While communicating with children, it is better to keep things straight and simple.
This is especially important when dealing with a relatively young child because more often than not, the child will either miss the point or misinterpret it.
In case of older children, use of flowery language can injure their pride and give them an inferiority complex.
Avoid: 'You are an idiot of the highest order.'
Try: 'You need to apply yourself more.'
Avoid: 'Your room is worse than a pigsty.'
Try: 'Your room needs urgent cleaning.
Words Are Like Bullets
There is no denying the power of spoken words; they are more potent than bullets.
You can use them to attack or protect your child's personality.
If children feel they are being attacked, they may:
• Clam up
• Start arguing
• Throw counter-accusations
All the three situations interrupt the flow of communication and may alienate the child.
As a rule, communication will deteriorate if you use intimidating language.
Parents who try to browbeat their child all the time, may succeed initially, but gradually the child will start paying back in the same currency.
While dealing with children, mild attitude and milder vocabulary usually produces the desired result.
Avoid: 'Come here immediately.'
Try: 'Let's get together in five minutes.'
Avoid: 'I want you home by 6 pm, positively.'
Try: 'Please be home between 6 and 6.30 p.m.
Remember, children are not expert face readers, so they cannot decipher the real reason behind your grim expression.
In most instances they will misread the look on a parent's face and presume that they have done something wrong.
If parents are upset or angry because of a job-related problem, or there is some other reason, they must verbally let their children know about it.
There is no need to go into details; just tell the child: 'Something/someone has made me very angry, but it has nothing to do with you. Let me have tea and rest for a while, then I'll feel much better.'
This small, thoughtful piece of communication can not only relieve the child's anxiety, but also make him more favourable towards you.
Written Notes Are Great
There are occasions when you need to communicate your feelings in writing.
Parents and children should use this method more often as written communication gives an opportunity to phrase thoughts more coherently.
Notes praising children for good behaviour, helping in housework or doing well in studies are great morale boosters.
Parents can pleasantly surprise their children by slipping a message in their pencil box or notebook, saying that they love them very much, or that they are proud of them.
Notes can also be used to register a complaint, without creating a scene.
When you expect a showdown or want to avoid an unnecessary argument, written notes are the best way to show your displeasure.
An important means of communicating with children is through eye contact and change of facial expression.
When you are socialising or in a setting where it is not possible to give verbal commands, you can show your approval or disapproval by an encouraging or a stern look, respectively.
Success of this form of communication depends upon prior conditioning of the child.
In spite of your best training, sometimes the child may avoid your eyes to act according to his wishes. Don't get upset; children after all, are children.
All human beings are born with a need to be loved and never outgrow this need.
When it comes to communicating feelings of love and care, many parents are found wanting.
Many of us got our first real proof of parental love when we fell sick.
This indirectly indicates that illness, injury and other adverse situations are a prerequisite for receiving love and care. That should not be the case.
Parents must take care that children do not get such a distorted picture of the parent-child relationship.
The line, 'If you love somebody, show it', may sound cliched, but it nevertheless holds true for many parents.
Try to demonstrate your love, show you care and express your feelings.
Demonstrative communication can be 'verbal' or 'physical'. Some verbal statements you can use are:
• 'I am really proud to have a son/daughter like you.'
• 'If I scold you, it doesn't mean that I don't love you.'
• 'I am lucky to have such a conscientious/dependable/ meticulous child like you.'
Don't assume your child knows that you feel this way; communicate to him in your own words.
Physical demonstration of feelings is also very important for the development of a warm and loving parent-child relationship.
Never miss an opportunity to hug, kiss or cuddle your child. If you don't give love today, your child will not learn to receive it tomorrow -- neither from you nor from anyone else.
It has been observed that such children are non-demonstrative themselves and may have unproductive relationships in later life.
Children who had plenty of emotional and physical contact with their parents find it easier to give and receive love.
For the proper expression of emotions and to sustain communication, a good vocabulary is a must.
Children may face problems while communicating because they lack experience in labelling their feelings.
When children fail to find appropriate words and are unable to correctly verbalize their internal feelings, they are likely to become frustrated.
Frustration may cause behavioural problems and destructive tendencies. Sometimes in their haste, they may choose wrong words and offend their parents.
Thus, the process of communication may deteriorate into an argument.
Parents must therefore help their children to correctly label a feeling or emotion. Here are some examples that can be used to assist the child:
• 'I get the feeling from your behaviour that you are trying to say you have been wrongly blamed for the broken glass.'
• 'While you sound angry, it is actually your frustration over not being able to finish the project given to you by your teacher.'
• 'I guess you want to communicate that you want to go for a sleepover at your friend's home.
A good parent can anticipate the child's mood and reaction to a situation.
If you are observant enough, you can see some non-verbal reaction: a dull look, a deadpan face, brimming eyes or intense denial.
If you can comprehend these expressions, you will have instant knowledge of the child's emotional turmoil.
The child will also have an easier time communicating to you because he can sense your involvement and concern.
Parents who are good at anticipatory communication have a very good chance of identifying and dealing with the child's problems.
Excerpted from the Ultimate Guide to Modern Parenting: Raising A Winner With Expert Tips And A Little Common Sense by Pradeep Kapoor and Neelkamal Kapoor with the kind permission of the publishers, Rupa Publications.