Communicating Children

In traditional Indian families where respect is equated with obedience, communication skills are not considered very important. Communication within the family is often one-way and restricted to the laying down of ground rules. But this position is changing rapidly, particularly in the bigger cities, and if you don’t wish to find yourself in continual confrontation with your children, here is one skill you will have to acquire.

Rules for good communication –

  • Start early- right from the womb.
  • Be clear
  • Your message must be clear and unambiguous. It also means that the words used must be age appropriate.
  • Make clear distinctions in case of orders, between those that are negotiable and those that are not. Make non-negotiable orders as few as possible thereby making them more acceptable to the child. Remember negotiating teaches a child how to deal with the world without either giving in or engaging in useless confrontation.
  • Be a good listener
  • Listen well and keep listening with full attention. Make eye-contact when communicating.
  • Make her feel that her views and contributions to conversation are not unimportant.
  • Be patient and don’t hurry up the child or interrupt her.
  • Be enthusiastic in listening.
  • Don’t jump to conclusions.
  • Don’t be a judgmental listener or in a hurry to provide solutions when the child is only looking for a good quiet listener.
  • Be age appropriate
  • Give age appropriate reasons to support your message. Just keep your message short, simple and clear.
  • Make it a two-way process
  • Share your own feelings with him – the most important element in good communications between parent and child is that it should be two-way. Talk to him about your day, ask for his opinion on some problem you are facing.
  • Give the child the freedom to voice objections. You may or may not accept those objections. But often it is enough for the child to be given the freedom to express resistance and resentment.
  • Keep time for communication
  • Keep aside some time for regular communication.
  • Create regular and casual channels of communications through discussions of ideas in a book, movie or TV show. Discuss every thing with the child – from politics, to environmental issue to values. If is able to discuss things with you it is less likely that he will dependent solely on peer views.
  • Play games like scrabble or monopoly together. Find ways to do things together and laugh together. Go for picnics. You want your child to take pleasure in your company and not dread it.
  • Spend time together. You cannot have a good communication with your child if you only see her at bedtime to say goodnight.
  • Respect confidences and promises Keep what the child tells you, in confidence. If you tell the other children or grand parent or cousins what she said, you will never be trusted again. The only exception normally is the other parent.
  • If you make any promises, be sure to follow through so that there is a mutual trust.
  • Pay attention to body language.
  • Try and see matters from the child’s point of view
  • Help the child improve his communication skills & understand friendship
  • Help the child with self-expression.
  • Respect your child’s moods – she may not always wish to talk.
  • Set a good example.

For Pre-teens and Teens Good communication skills is important with all children but it becomes especially relevant when dealing with teens. During adolescence, children are aggressively working at self-discovery and a formulation of a sense of self as distinct from you. Undoubtedly, this is essential work, but it is also a major cause for the appearance of the generation gap. This is where the value of good inter-familial communications makes itself felt. If your overall communication has been good so far, there will be fewer problems. At this time it is even more important to keep the lines of communications are open. Nevertheless communicating with adolescents require special skills –

  • Practice being tolerant and non-judgmental. Remember part of the teen plan is to provoke you.
  • Don’t put up with disrespect. While the aim is not to enter into a confrontation, state clearly and firmly that you will not put up with anything that is disrespectful of you as a person.
  • Make her friends welcome in your home.
  • As a rule, don’t lecture or preach – you will just be tuned out.
  • Make clear that any objections you have to your child’s behaviour is motivated primarily by concerns regarding her health or safety, rather than fear of what the neighbours will say.
  • Discuss potential problem areas (like going to parties) before hand. Allow the child a say in what to wear, when to come back etc, but don’t hesitate to enforce any limit which you consider non-negotiable.
  • When you have to scold or say something potentially unpleasant, choose a time when you (or the child) is not already angry or tired or sleepy. Specially remember never to do so in front of her friends. Teens have very fragile egos.
  • Don’t use emotional blackmail to get your own way. It may succeed in the short term, but you will also win the child’s resentment in the long term.
  • Don’t resort to physical violence or abusive language.
  • Don’t make winning a prestige issue – you could end up losing your child.
  • Give your teen a sense of self worth and teach independence and responsibility by
    (a) giving small choices regularly
    (b) allowing them occasionally and in safe ways to experience the consequences of their own actions
    (c) encouraging the child to think for herself.
Negative Forms of Communication:-
Form taken Causes the child to learn
Blaming Denial / Lying
Threatening Fear / Defiance
Bribing Manipulation
Lecturing Humiliation / Shame and how to tune you out
Nagging Resentment / Inattentiveness
Trivialising her feelings Not to value herself / like herself
Reprimanding Loss of self-worth / resentment.


Positive Forms of Communication:-
Form taken Causes the child to learn
Encouragement Development of her strengths and abilities.
Focus on behaviour rather than the child Learn what she is doing wrong/right without damaging her self-esteem
Setting an example To trust and believe in you.

Recommended: phonics

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