In order to build healthy, meaningful relationships with those around us, we need to understand how to effectively communicate with others. Throughout most elementary and high-school curriculums, students are taught many necessary and important subjects like math, science, english, etc., however there are no subjects on how to effectively communicate.
This begs the question: How are we going to learn how to communicate with our loved ones in a way that promotes positive, healthy meaningful relationships?
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As adults, most of us do not have the time or energy to take a course on communication. We are all busy with our jobs, children, and families. However, communication is SUCH an important topic if we want to maintain healthy relationships with the important people in our lives. It is also important for us as parents to teach our children to be good communicators! As communication is such an important part of life, it is important that children learn at an early age how to communicate effectively!
This is why we decided to do a series on communication! Each post in this series will outline simple strategies that you can use to improve your communication, and help you grow healthy relationships!
This post will outline simple steps that will help you communicate better with those your child! Learning how to communicate in a healthy way will lead to you having less conflict and more peace in your relationships!
Model Healthy Communication to Your Child
In 1977, Albert Bandura wrote about Social Learning Theory. His theory talks about the concept of modelling. Modelling happens when we learn how to behave by observing other people’s behaviour, and the consequences of their behaviour.
Here is an example of modelling: If a child sees that one of their parents always gets their way when they yell at the other parent, the child will learn that yelling is an effective way of communicating their needs.
Alternatively, if the child sees that when a parent is upset they calmly discuss how they are feeling and respect the opinion of the other parent, the child will learn that when they are upset they can communicate their needs calmly and still get their point across.
Another example: If a child sees that when a parent is upset they shut down and do not express how they are feeling, the child will learn to internalize their emotions and not discuss their feelings with others.
Alternatively, if a child sees that when a parent is upset they communicate their feelings even though they are not happy, the child will learn that it is okay to have different emotions and express these emotions in healthy ways.
As parents, teachers, therapists, aunts, uncles, grandparents… whatever your relationship may be to the child, it is important to know that the child is learning from how they see you interacting with others. Even when you are not talking to them specifically, they see the way you interact with others, and they may start to mimic your communication patterns.
If you want your child to talk to you in a way that is respectful, calm, and clear, you need to practice communicating in this way with those around you!
Listen to Your Children
A key component to communicating is listening! Although this may seem like common sense, this point is often forgotten or missed! If you want your child to listen to you when you talk, you need to model healthy listening to them. Here are a few ways that you can let your child know that you are listening:
Make eye contact with them as they are talking to you (i.e. don’t be scrolling through emails or social media on phone or computer).
Allow your child to completely finish their thought before responding to them.
After your child is finished talking, recap what they said back to them, in order to make sure they are fully understood, this will ensure that you are hearing your child correctly. When you are recapping what your child said back to them, you may want to start your sentences with: “So what I hear you saying is….” OR “Let me make sure I understand you, is this …. what you meant?” For more sentence starter ideas check out this post!
Allow Your Child to Communicate Their Choices to You
To help your child become a great communicator, offer them structured choices. Teaching your child to make choices from a young age has been shown in research to help them become more independant, and great problem solvers later in life!
Instead of: It’s time for bed. Try: Would you like to go to bed at 7:15 or 7:30?
Instead of: Brush your teeth. Try: Would you like to brush your teeth before or after we read a book?
Instead of: Set the table. Try: Would you like to set the table or help do the dishes?
Include your child in your own decision making process. When you are making decisions for your family, allow your child to see the way that you make this decision. Whether it be something small like what you are eating for dinner, or something big like moving to a new home. Children who are involved in decisions will be able to learn how to problem solve in their own lives and have more confidence communicating their own choices as they grow older.
Take Home Message
When we are able to effectively communicate with children it reduces the temptation to use yelling and nagging as a form of communication. In the short term, yelling and nagging may seem like an easy solution when your child is not listening. However, when you consistently use these three tips for effective communication, you will find that your home is much more peaceful and happier, and that you are not feeling the need to yell and nag as much as you used to!
Here is a quick review of the three steps we talked about today:
Modelling the communication that you want to be seeing is HUGE when it comes to promoting healthy communication skills in children. Children look up to us as adults and it is our job to teach them how to communicate in a healthy way!
Teach your child how to listen to you by listening to them! This is a great way to model healthy communication and also is an incredible time to learn more about your child’s needs and wants!
Finally, allow your child to make decisions, and communicate their choices to you!
I hope that you enjoyed this post and found some useful information that you can incorporate into your daily relationships with children.
If you are enjoying learning about healthy communication strategies, be sure to check out this post: