Tips For Good Communication

Always treat children with courtesy, kindness and respect. Good communication flows from mutual respect and understanding among family members. When children are treated with the same courtesy, kindness, and respect that parents give their best friends, it sends a strong message of love and support. Be generous with comments like, “please” and “thank you.” Make requests instead of giving orders. And always, be quick to say, “I am sorry” when you are wrong.

Listen actively by repeating your child's feelings with empathy and understanding.
Simple acknowledgment of the child’s feelings will always get you a lot of mileage. Not only do you validate the child but you also put him in a position to then hear what you have to say. Remember, agreement isn't necessary in order to describe your child's feelings. You simply put yourself in your child’s shoes. For example, your daughter is up-set because her best friend is moving out of state. Avoid saying, “You will have another best friend.” Instead reply with, “You sound pretty sad about your best friend moving.”

Avoid misunderstandings with reflective listening.
To help your child feel understood and to avoid misunderstandings, acknowledge the meaning of what the child has said. Simply rephrase the message. For example, your son states his desire for a part-time job exclaiming he can handle it. Your response? “It seems to me that you have figured out how to keep your grades up, maintain your existing commitments and add a job to your existing busy schedule.”

Cool off before you talk, and choose your words carefully.
Children really do believe what a parent tells them, and they will always reach up or stoop down to parental expectations. Therefore, make sure that what you say is positive and builds up rather than tears down. Also helpful, avoid comments that start with Why followed by can’t you, don’t you, and won’t you.
Consider rephrasing words such as hyperactive, strong- willed and daydreamer with energetic, tenacious and creative.

Remember, if you want to be heard, you first must be available and listen.
Take the time to make yourself available. Only when a child genuinely feels he has been heard and understood does a parent have a prayer that the child will listen. Make yourself available even at inconvenient times and places. Create an atmosphere that is safe for kids to explore their thoughts and feelings even if you don’t agree. Also, be careful about supplying solutions. Rarely do kids want solutions; what they want is a listening ear.

Listen more and talk less.
Listening is not the same as hearing. It goes beyond the words and gets to the heart of what is being said and acknowledges its importance. Listen to body language as well as words. Remember, talking is sharing but listening is caring.
While listening, don’t mentally rehearse your reply.
Don’t mentally rehearse your reply while your child is speaking. Instead, listen to what is being said.

Use plenty of “I” messages.
“I” messages take the blame out of communication. The format sounds like this:
When…., I feel…., because….,

1. Describe the behavior.

2. State your feeling.

3. State the consequence.

For example, “When you don’t complete your chores, I feel overwhelmed because it adds to my list of things I need to complete.”

Make sure your non-verbal communication is positive.
Dr. Albert Mehrabian states in his book Silent Messages that 55 percent of communication is non-verbal body language. Thirty-eight percent is tone of voice. Only 7 percent is content. Check your body language and the tone of your voice. Make sure both are positive.

Positive body language includes providing focused attention, having a pleasant facial expression, and leaning forward in your chair.

Hold Weekly Family Meetings.
Weekly family meetings provide all family members with a platform to be heard and understood. They also create a format for families to formulate rules, determine operating boundaries and deal with problem areas while they are small. Suggestions for family meetings:

1. Meet at a regularly scheduled time each week, not only when there is a crisis.

2. Establish a time limit. Thirty minutes is long enough for most families.

3. Give everyone an opportunity to be heard.

4. If needed, use an agenda to stay on track.

5. Use tackling difficult issues as an opportunity to teach problem solving.

6. Discuss good things happening in the family

7. Plan for family fun and outings.

8. To ensure participation, only pay allowance and provide lunch money at the conclusion of your family meeting.

Sources: Parenting Without Pressure, A Parent’s Guide. Colorado Springs, Co: Pinon Press, 1993.