Talking With Your Kids
Talking With Your Kids
Whether they're 2 or 12, you know that it's not always easy to talk to your kids and have them listen. The same is true for you as a parent. Communication between you and your children is one of the most important parts of raising and teaching individuals. We've put together a list of tricks we learned over the years as parents to help remind us to communicate better with our children:
1. Listen Patiently
Too often, we listen to the other person in a conversation just waiting for our turn to respond. When children speak, sometimes they take a while to get to the point, their stories drag on, or you're too busy and don't have time for their random or pointless (to you) story. If this is the case, we suggest telling your child that you value their story, but that you will have to listen to it later when you can be more focused:
"This seems really important and I want to give you my full attention, I'm just really busy right now so can you hold that thought and we can talk about it after dinner?"
If you do have the time, sit down, clear your head, and listen. Engage, ask questions, respond to what they're saying without interrupting. Don't rush your children to get to the point. Don't look annoyed or frustrated, and instead make your child feel comfortable to express themselves to you.
2. Don't Get Mad
We know that kids will undoubtedly cause trouble and that they will need to be corrected. We suggest never raising your voice, and instead speaking to your children in a calm manner. This teaches them to do the same. By always staying cool, calm, and collected, it makes you more approachable so that your kids will always feel comfortable telling you every detail, even if it's "bad". This doesn't mean that you can't reprimand them or tell them what they did wrong, but if you do it in a gentle tone of voice, they won't feel like they're being attacked.
"My dad used to keep a paper in a drawer in the kitchen. It was a note that said: 'You can bring this to me and tell me anything and I promise I can't get mad if you bring this note.' I only ever used it once, but I was glad he kept his promise and didn't get mad."
It's important to foster trust and a safe place for your children to tell you things. They will make mistakes, whether you know about them or not, but they will learn better if you are able to help guide and teach them.
3. Talk About The Hard Stuff
Children are a part of the world, and no matter how hard we try to shelter them, they will have questions about some of the hard realities they face. Talk to them about family, about school, about their friends, about their identities. Speaking to children openly and honestly about real world issues teaches them to think critically about them and to be open-minded to hearing different perspectives. As children grow and mature, they learn about different aspects of life, so be prepared to discuss certain things when it is appropriate.
Talk about race, sexuality, politics, historical events, and family honestly. Educate them and be honest.
4. Acknowledge Fears And Failures
It's easy to dismiss a child's fears as silly, but to that child, those fears are real and valid and scare them. If a child is afraid, listen. Offer them comfort and explain to them that you are there to help and be there for them.
"That does seem scary. Luckily, I'm here for you to keep you safe. How do you think you can find the courage to deal with this situation?"
If your child fails at something (which they undoubtedly will), don't brush it off. Talk about it factually and encourage them to learn from it. Ask questions on how they can do better next time.
"That sucks that you failed. Usually, we can learn from our mistakes. What did you learn from this that can help you next time you're in that situation?"
Sometimes the answers to our own problems come up when we hear ourselves speak. Kids don't always need the answer, sometimes they just need an ear to listen.
This list is certainly not complete, and speaking to each child is different. What works for your daughter might not work for your son, and vice versa. What's important is that you are mindful of how you are speaking and listening to your children. You won't be a perfect communicator every moment of every day, but if you are conscious of it, you can improve.
Let us know any tips and tricks you learned how to effectively communicate with kids in your comments below.