In today’s living, it has become unquestionably easy to spend time with your family and not talk at all. Many parents and kids are often attached to TVs, cell phones, iPads, iPods etc so much that, even though they are just a few feet from each other- they never exchange a word!
In the next few series, I will share some simple rules you can use to open the lines of communication with your children, get them to listen and to tell you more.
Rule #1: Listen! Listen! Listen!
Many parents, especially parents of teenagers complain that their teens do not converse with them. If you check, while the child of such a parent spoke to him years back, Daddy ‘claimed’ to be listening without his focus off his newspaper or favourite TV sport while Mummy just gave a quick answer, then a yell to stop the ‘bugging’ child so she wouldn’t miss out on the Africa Magic scene.
When your children want to talk, stop everything. If you continue what you were doing, they will think you don’t care and don’t have time for them. If what you are doing is so important and can’t be interrupted, ask him to give you a few minutes. The earlier you halt to listen to your child, the better for you and her.
A silent and sympathetic ear is sometimes the best thing we can give to our children. Part of excellent listening is therefore, to avoid jumping in to advice, scold or pass the blame while your child is speaking or making a point. In life sometimes, we don’t want advice or comments- just a shoulder to cry on. Other times, we just want to be heard and to feel like someone shares our pain. Let your child vent or discuss his concerns, worries, and fears. This rule is particularly important for parents of teenagers. However, the earlier we incorporate listening to our children from a young age, the smarter.
So next time the kids go- ‘Mom’, or ‘Dad’, tune in completely on them. Use listening words like: Hmm…, tell me more! I know, Wow! That is just awful! I am here, Go ahead; let it out etc to show that you are actually listening.
If you do not show interest in your kids when they want to talk to you- they will sooner or later, stop showing interest in talking to you.
Rule #2: Remember, there is power in choice.
How many times have you been asked if you’d like to have bread or yam for breakfast and you can’t make up your mind which to go for?
When you are talking to your children- whether they are two years old, or fourteen- give them choices. For instance, rather than picking out what your two year old will wear, bring out two items and allow her make a choice.
Choices make children feel you are talking with them and asking them rather than talking at them and telling what to do. This no doubt, reduces the chance of rebellion and tantrums.
Asking children to make choices equip them with thinking and decision making skills from an early age. Later on in life, these skills will come in handy in helping them to effectively deal with peer pressure and deciding what to have for breakfast!
Smart parents make conversation a two-way street rather than a power struggle. Be smart!
We will continue this series next week. Till then….