Empathic Communication (page 2)
Effective communication—the sharing of ideas, opinions, and information—helps you to build bonds with your child. Doing this right with your child will encourage positive behaviors in him, help to build trust, and create a more peaceful atmosphere in the home. Not getting this right, however, could cause frustration in your child and stress in the family.
What To Know
Does what you say to your child encourage her to behave in ways that please you? If you don't like your answer to this question, check your day-to-day dealings with your child.
You may not be getting the response you expect from your child if:
- Your child sees you doing the actions that you tell her not to do.
- You allow your child to break rules without consequences.
- You always answer her question "why do I have to?" with "because I said so."
- You never take the time to explain "why."
- You act like a bully toward your child.
- You give too little instructions.
- You give too many instructions at a time.
- You ask your child to do more than he is able to for his age.
- You complain about what your child is doing wrong, but never praise her when she does something well.
- You never admit to being wrong.
- You let your child call the shots every time and never take charge.
- You use silence to show your disapproval.
What To Do
Sending mixed or unclear messages when you talk with your child could hurt your child's self-esteem and open the door to problem behavior. There are ways to talk with your child more effectively and build a stronger bond with him—
- Talk with your child and not to or through him—this means listening as well as responding.
- Do not ask something of your child you are not willing to do yourself—don't yell at your child for lying and then ask her to lie to someone for you.
- You're the grown-up—have the final say about important decisions, but explain to your child the reasons why you have made the decision.
- Treat your child with respect—don't yell at your child and call her names. She will only learn from your example. Speak to your child in the same manner you would like her to speak to you.
- Some decisions need time—your child will see that you care about what he cares about by giving serious thought to issues that are important to him, before just saying "no."
- Be specific—don't leave things open to interpretation.
- "Because I say so" is not the best answer—explain the reasons why.
- Be careful about asking too much—because of age or ability a child may not be able to do some tasks well. Especially for new tasks, give detailed instructions for the chores you want the child to do.
- Do things together—use these opportunities to talk with and learn about your child.
- It's ok to negotiate sometimes—it teaches your child the benefits of "give and take" which he may find useful later in life.
- Reward your child for doing well—praise for a job well done will make your child feel good about herself and eager to please you in other things.
- Expect set-backs—but deal with them as soon as they happen. Talk about things that you don't like about your child's actions. Find a solution together, even when discipline is involved.
- Give a little—your child is still learning, and your responsibility is to teach with understanding.
Having adults in the "take charge" role makes children feel secure and adds to their mental well-being. However, children who think they are not being treated fairly by adults could become angry and mistrustful of authority. Such children are more likely to be influenced by peers to be involved in unhealthy behaviors, like alcohol, drug, and tobacco use.
Good adult/child communication can go a long way in deterring unsafe behaviors and influencing the choices children make for a lifetime.
National PTA: Strengthening Family Communication
Reprinted with the permission of the Department of Health and Human Services.
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