Communicating With Your Child

November 12, 2018

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By Quek Li Koon

Communication, as we know, is the bridge to building strong and quality relationships. Communication with your children involves not only talking, but also listening and attending to them with appropriate body language. Also, the way questions are asked and the direction in which conversations continue matter as well. With good communication, children will feel that they matter to you, and this will, in turn, build their trust and love for you.

Here are four tips you can use with your children to communicate more effectively.

INTERESTING TOPICS

Choose topics that interest your child. If your child is interested in animals, you can find out about the animals he or she likes, and the reasons he or she has for liking them. You may be surprised by the amount of information he or she knows about them. You can also share with your child information about the animals you are fond of. Not knowing the topic does not mean you cannot establish communication with your child. In such cases, you can always take a curious stance, and, again, find out more from your child. This way, your child will feel that you are interested in the things he or she likes and enjoy the attention you give.

ASKING QUESTIONS

Ask open-ended questions, such as “How was your outing with Auntie Susan?”, “What did you do in school today?” This will not only give your child more room to answer, but it will also encourage them to think of their responses to those questions. You can also ask closed-ended questions, “Do you have homework today?”, “Did you finish the food I packed for you today?” but notice how these questions tend to restrict answers to a yes or no. Although both types of questions are necessary for communication, using more open-ended questions encourage children to answer at length.

It is important to note, however, that open-ended questions may not always be effective, especially when questions are asked in a way that invites confusion instead of communication. To avoid miscommunication, ask questions that are comprehensible to your child. Reframe your questions to accommodate your child’s language needs. In other words, your questions must be simple and age-appropriate. For example, instead of asking your nine-year-old child, “What are your views concerning the fighting incident that took place in the school canteen today?”, simplify your question and ask “What do you think of the fight that happened between the two students at the canteen today?”

For a younger child, the question “how was school today?” may generate a single word response like, “Good.” Furthermore, broad questions may confuse him or her. If you use a close-ended question, like “did anything interesting happen in school today?”, you may get more information as the question is more specific. Just by phrasing and choosing your words when asking questions will encourage your child to converse with you more. You can even start the conversation by talking about his or her friends in school. This way your child may be more open to share anything else that might be sensitive to them.

TONE, VOLUME, AND BODY LANGUAGE

The tone, volume of your voice, and your body language are important. Asking “did you finish the food I packed for you today?” or “how was school today?” in an upset or anxious tone will discourage your child from having a conversation. Some children may also perceive locked eyebrows or loud voice as criticism, even though it may be your habitual way of talking.  If that is the case, you may want to pay attention to the quality of your voice and your body language.

AVOID THREATS

Some parents faithfully stand by the assumption that threats are effective in maintaining authority when talking to their children. Many use intimidating remarks like, “if you do not listen to me, I will tell your father!”, or “if you continue to misbehave, I will call the police to take you away”.  Not only are these threats relinquishing a parent’s authority to another person when he or she is supposed to be in-charge, but children may also feel forced to comply out of fear. The use of threats may eventually cause insecurity and resentment. Additionally, this may lead relationships to drift apart. The dilemma of using threats is that those not carried out will render this method ineffective while those that are implemented are more likely to have adverse effects on the children. Instead of using threats, consider reading books on parenting, talking to other parents and professionals, or attending parenting courses that will provide you with a repertoire of positive skills in managing your children’s behaviour.

Good communication is the key to better relationships. It reinforces the care you have for your children, and in the process, they learn to trust and open up to you. Moreover, the trust that you have built together will make you a more approachable person, and this will allow them to come to you without fear of rejection whenever they are upset, troubled or discouraged. In summary, good communication strengthens relationships and improves your children’s self-esteem.

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