I remember the first time my child turned away from me. I had heard about a bullying incident in school from a fellow parent and questioned my daughter about it.
“Why should I tell you anything, Mummy? You won’t understand me anyway.” She responded.
It was a heartbreaking moment.
There is a world of difference between talking to our children versus listening to our children talk, though this is something a lot of parents tend to confuse, myself included.
How many of us have been guilty of brushing our children’s concerns aside when they complain of monsters under their beds? Or have shooed them away while we were on the phone or doing our taxes?
Very often, we forget how immense our influence is on our children and how our actions can impact their self-esteem and the way they relate to us. So how should we, as parents, ensure that we don’t unknowingly shut our children out? Here are some ways to break down the communication barriers.
Recognize when your kids are ready to talk and make yourself available. For example, during dinner or while driving home from school. Be ready to listen and refrain from jumping in with advice or judgement. If your child tells you a story about how he lost his pencil case by leaving it in the canteen, avoid immediately reprimanding him for his forgetfulness. Instead, ask him what he can do in the future to avoid misplacing his things and let him work out the solution himself.
Being his pillar of support while letting him solve his own problems is so much more powerful as it comes from within. A particular book that I chanced upon, How to Talk so Kids will Listen, and Listen so Kids will Talk helped me tremendously by providing me with in-depth methods that I, as a parent, can employ to ensure optimal communication between my daughter and I. Direct and functional, this comprehensive book not only explains the logic behind each tip, but also teaches the reader how to execute its recommendations. It is also peppered with easy-to-understand cartoons depicting different scenarios and how to tackle them, which makes it such a comfortable read. Teach your Child how to Think also explores the techniques parents can employ to encourage optimal thinking.
Speak their Language
No, I don’t mean cutesey, babbling kiddy talk. Speaking their language means to give your children love in the way they best recognize and desire. These different ‘ways’ are known as languages, and giving love in your child’s language will allow him to understand you better. For example, speaking to a Chinese man in French will only confuse him – whereas switching to his language will allow him to feel more connected to you. This correlates directly to love languages.
So how does a parent identify his or her child’s love language? According to the Five Love Languages of Children, there are five main categories that people fall into – for some, it is spending time together. For others, it may be physical touch, words of affirmation or giving and receiving gifts. The author also outlines how to help your children manage their anger and discipline them in ways that do not damage your relationship with them.
Resolve Conflicts Effectively
“Do what I say because I am your mother.” How many of us have pulled that line and how often has that worked? Conflict management depends largely on perception. Discipline should not be seen as punishment but instead, look at conflict as teaching opportunities.
Just two months ago, my daughter got upset at her birthday party when my husband brought home a strawberry flavoured birthday cake instead of a strawberry AND chocolate flavored one, which she requested for. Her whining had soon escalated into a full-fledged crying marathon and my husband was ready to drive out to the store to get her another cake. In the past, I would have either
- Scolded her for being selfish. “Daddy already bought you a cake, you should be thankful! Sit down and be quiet now!” or
- Pacified her by getting another cake.
With the help of Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline, a comprehensive book about managing conflict with children and Superpowers for Parents: The Psychology of Great Parenting and Happy Children which explains why children behave the way they do, I managed to come up with option C:
Talk her through resolving her own internal conflict
Keeping calm, I first tried placing myself in her shoes and understanding her distress. Okay, so she did not get the exact cake that she wanted, but that did not make her birthday any less enjoyable. She still had a nice, big cake and lots of chocolate milkshakes to go around. I just needed to help her realize that.
So I leveled with her. I sat down next to her and said, while pausing in between each sentence to make sure she understood, “I know Daddy bought the wrong cake, but you wanted it to be half strawberry anyway, right? If Daddy had bought a chocolate-only cake instead, then you would have too much chocolate-flavoured food at your party! Wouldn’t that be boring?”
That did the trick. She slowly realized that her situation was not quite so dire and let go of her anger. By giving her the choice between either chocolate OR strawberry only, I managed to help her see the positive side of the situation.
Raising children is not an exact science, yet thankfully, in this modern day and age, there are many books and websites available to aid us along the way. As a parent who has been on the brink of giving up multiple times, trust me; it does get better. To put it in financial terms, the payoff is worth the investment when you see your children smile.
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Article contributed by NoQ Store