The most important thing in communication, is hearing what isn’t said.” – Peter Drucher
And that is what this segment of ‘SHRI PARVARISH’ is all about – Communication.
Although children today are more articulate and expressive, they don’t always open up about what is really bothering them, irrespective of their age – toddlers, preschoolers, juniors, teens or tweens.
Knowing specific things about your child’s anxieties, fears and worries, equips you with the ability to initiate a conversation and channel it gently and subtly towards a more open and stress free discussion.
Your child may begin a conversation by saying just a few words or phrases, they are testing you to see if you are really listening and are truly concerned, before they open up and tell the whole story. Communication is about both ‘listening’ and
‘talking’. One without the other is meaningless.
To open up channels of communication with your child, follow a few conscious, and yet simple steps:
Give him/her your 100% attention – This means you set aside what you are
doing and listen with complete attention. We call this “Listening Bodies”. Your body language, eye contact and encouraging expression will give your child the confidence to share feelings, emotions and thoughts.
Respond verbally – Just nodding your head mechanically is not enough. Respond with words and phrases such as “And then what happened?” “How did you feel when he said that?” “Oh, dear, how terrible!”, “Oooh! How wonderful! You must have been thrilled to hear that.” And so on……
Do not interrupt – Allow your child to complete the story. Intersperse with questions or verbal responses, but do not interrupt with comments or advice. Even when they tend to ramble (this is probably because coming right to the point is sometimes difficult), do not rush them by completing their sentences with words of your own. Let them take their time to arrive at the core of the issue that is causing them worry. Your patient listening will help your child know that he/she is heard and show them that you are interested in their whole story. It will also help him/her sequence his/her thoughts and express them better.
Be there for your children when they want to talk – Children have specific times when they are most talkative. It varies with each child. Sometimes it is bedtime, sometimes it is at breakfast, or dinner time, sometimes it is when they are in the car while on their way to school. Optimise this time by striking a conversation with them. The topic could be anything, something that interests him/her, or something you see on the road, or about an incident from your own day at work. Remember, when you initiate a conversation, it should be about what you are thinking, feeling or seeing. Don’t initiate a conversation with probing questions. It will make the child feel as if it is the beginning of an inquisition.
Acknowledge what they are saying – Listen to their point of view even if you disagree with it. Let them finish talking before you respond with your point of view. Repeat what you heard them say to ensure that you have understood. This also gives the child the assurance that you have been listening carefully. Ask to clarify that what you heard and what they said are the same.
Don’t raise your voice, strengthen your argument – When you are in disagreement with what your child is saying or asking for, respond in a way that they will hear and understand. Don’t sound angry or defensive, soften your tone and response. Acknowledge that you do not agree with what your child is saying, and you understand that your child too probably does not agree with what you are saying or suggesting. Instead of arguing about “who” is right and “who” is wrong, speak about “what” you think is right or wrong.
Encourage your child to do the same. Lok at the problem or issue being discussed. This is not a power struggle, it is a discussion.
Recognise your triggers and those of your child – Often we react during situations and conversations, rather than responding. Make an effort to identify what triggers your reaction. Recognise them so that you are aware and conscious of them. These triggers would vary from situation to situation. Some of the common triggers that cause you to react come from your own feelings, such as fear, anger, guilt, helplessness, inadequacy, etc. Be conscious of your emotions when communicating with your child. Parent from your principles, rather than your fears. Reflecting for a moment before responding will enable you to check if it is triggered reaction or a thoughtful response.
“Communication must be HOT. That is Honest, Open and Two-Way.”
– Dan Oswald.
Studies have shown that effective communication is a result of a combination of words (7%), tone of voice (38%) and body language (55%). Notice how body language has the maximum impact on effective communication?
Therefore, it is important that during any communication (when your child is talking to you, or you are talking to the child, or both of you are talking to each other) you make eye contact. Be aware of your gestures and posture, as they send out non-verbal signals to the listener. These non-verbal signals could make or break effective communication.
Be conscious of your emotions. Be calm and focused, so that communication is not diluted or distracted. Vary your tone of voice and pitch to ensure that the conversation is non-threatening or and encouraging. Ensure that neither your tone of voice nor your pitch is anxious, irritated, threatening or intimidating.
Don’t monopolise the conversation. Encourage your child to speak and respond. If your child is struggling to frame the sentences or sounds confused, prompt using subtle words and phrases, rather than abrupt probing questions.
Knowing what causes barriers for effective communication is as important as knowing what enables effective communication. Some of the most common barriers are: preconceived perceptions, one’s own emotions, snap judgements, closed questions and words, passive or distracted listening, endless rambling, lack of empathy, over use of abstract examples and assumptions, interruptions and interference. Avoid these to achieve effectiveness and to open and strengthen channels of communication with your children.
In conclusion, conversation is an art, they say. Well, so is communication. Especially communication with one’s child. Hence, to ensure that communication is effective, a conscious effort by both listener and speaker would be required. And for this, one needs to –
Listen more than talk, Think before talking,
Speak calmly or not speak at all, Ask open ended questions,
Respond, rather than react.
“The effectiveness of communication is not defined by the communication. It is defined by the response.” – Milton Erikson
Contributed by Neethi Srikumar, AVP – Operations Shri Educare Limited
(For more tips on ‘Positive Parenting’, please write to email@example.com)