By Stephen Walton
First Thing's First...
In order to improve communication in families it's important to: take an honest hard-headed look at existing communication.
You may think you have a good family culture; however, it's important to periodically step aside and take inventory of your actual relationship.
Ask yourself how you think your children perceive you,
As a parent, are you making the grade as an effective communicator?
Here are a few personal "Do" questions for you to ponder
In your evaluation, don't be too hard on yourself as most people have some area to work on, including myself.
The point is to truly improve communication in families, you must recognize your weaknesses in order to strive for continuous improvement.
Be "completely honest" with yourself...
Do you truly believe your children respect you?
Do you think they consider you to be a confidant?
Do they listen to you attentively and with interest?
Do you think they consider you to be a wise person?
Do you feel they have trust in everything you say and do?
Do you control your own personal emotions at all times?
Do you listen attentively to how your children are expressing themselves?
Do you provide them with your undivided attention?
Do you listen to truly understand them or just go through the motions?
Do you convey compassion and empathy for all their concerns?
Do you promote "encouragement & support" of all family members?
Do you promote and practice honesty and respect for all family members?
Do you express a sense of value for your children's views and opinions?
Do you make the time to personally connect with your children?
And the Grand-daddy of them all...
Do you promote and model" A Positive Attitude" toward everything and everyone at all times?
If you answered "no"
to any of the above questions, challenge yourself to make a conscious, sincere and heartfelt commitment to improve in your area of weakness.
In order to truly improve communication in families it's important to place priority on our efforts.
Don't assume you can wait until your kids get older to begin having positive, interesting and stimulating conversations, often by the time they are teenagers it is too late, they'll have different priorities and bonding with Mom & Dad will be placed on their back burner.
Parents often feel they are communicating effectively until their teenager suddenly lashes out with
....."All you ever do is nag at me"
....."You never even listen to me"
....."All I hear is blah blah blah!"
....."You don't understand me"
....."You don't even know me"
....."You don't trust me"
..... "You don't even care about me".
...................or worse yet…
..... "You don't even love me".
Comments of that nature can blindside any parent and can be very hurtful. Unfortunately it happens far too often, and to otherwise seemingly good families.
Of course teenagers are dealing with a tremendous amount of stress, confusion and hormonal changes and many issues can lead to such statements, however, such negative comments signal a communication problem that must not be taken lightly.
Negative feelings must be addressed immediately and never be allowed to fester. A warm, loving family culture is about building relationships, it takes time, commitment, and most importantly good "Positive Communication."
Slow down… take the time to really know and understand your child, how they think, their likes and dislikes, their favorite songs, movies, get to know their friends, their hopes, dreams and aspirations in life. Enjoy every
minute with your children each and every day for we don't know what
tomorrow will bring.
In order to really improve communication in families, we must make an early connection with our children, child development specialists assert that birth to age fifteen are the foundational years in establishing the positive rapport that develops into life long pleasurable and loving relationships.
Whatever parenting stage you are at right now... "Today" at this very moment is your opportunity to "Commit to Connect" with your children.
It's so easy to get caught up in the fast paced world of raising children, particularly when both parents are working (the norm for most families today).
Good positive communication is often sacrificed as "time restraints" have an inexplicable way of undermining our good intentions. You must make the time to personally connect with your children on a daily basis.
It's important to understand that "positive parenting" is all about developing a positive family atmosphere built on love and respect for one another and it is built on the foundation of positive and effective communication.
1) Find Balance in Your Life:
Creating time to connect by finding a balance in your life is by far the most difficult thing for parents to do, yet, is one of the most rewarding parental achievements you can accomplish.
The pressures and time restraints on young families today can be daunting to say the least and although time itself is measurable, it is illusive and cannot itself be managed, however… you can, and must: "manage your life around time."
The secret is to make your "family time" your main priority. Once you truly do this with deep conviction you will notice a major shift in your mind set toward time and what is truly important to you in life. All other things will seem trivial and much easier to manage.
(For more on this, watch for our upcoming article:
"How to Find a Balance in Your Family Life")
2) Commit to Communicate:
Make a personal commitment to communicate in a way that you "truly connect" with your children on a daily basis.
Commit to regular family meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) as often as possible to talk about the day's events such as what good things happened or to address any personal concerns your children may have. Always keep it positive.
Take walks in the park or around the block after dinner or early evening to allow for one-on-one time or as a family together. These moments are priceless and offer opportunities for special bonding time. Even a ten or fifteen minute walk will yield immeasurable benefits.
Set a special family night to play board games, make crafts together, anything that generates an environment conducive to positive, intimate and bonding communication.
Bed time is a wonderful time to talk with your young children, read or make up stories together, talk about your family or the special things you did as a child.
As often as possible leave the radio off in your car, this is a great opportunity to initiate some good discussion on any subject matter of the day.
3) Provide Your Undivided Attention:
When your child speaks to you, stop what you're doing, make eye contact and listen attentively to what they have to say at all times.
If you are busy, never pretend or half-heartedly listen to your child. If you cannot stop and give your full attention, tell them so and make a commitment to talk as soon as possible, and be sure to follow through. This validates their importance to you.
Other than an emergency, do not accept phone calls or allow other distractions to interfere or disrupt intimate conversations or special bonding times with your children.
4) Practice Active Listening:
Always give your child plenty of time to articulate their thoughts and make a conscious effort to focus not only on their words used but be aware of body language.
Listen to truly understand their feelings and emotions and show compassion and empathy for their concerns.
Acknowledge their feelings and clarify your understanding by restating how you perceive things in your own words.
5) Speak at Your Child's Level:
Use words of your child's intellectual level to prevent misinterpretation of your intended message.
Always make eye contact and if your child is young get right down to their physical level whenever possible, this removes any form of intimidation and provides a much needed sense of equality.
Your child regardless of age should never be coerced or made to feel subordinate to you for any reason, they deserve equal respect.
6) Regulate Your Emotions:
Setting a good example here is of utmost importance...
Keep your emotions in check. Remain calm at all times, particularly when your child exhibits stressful emotions of their own.
Strive to remain positive while settling conflicts and never allow your child's negative emotions to fester and escalate into serious problems, always work toward a win-win solution.
It's critical to set an example for your children. You cannot expect them to handle their own emotions if you happen to lose your own composure.
7) Encourage Open & Honest Communication:
Always promote and respect honesty, it is the very foundation from which all your communication is built. If you have no honesty… without a doubt, your relationship will inevitably breakdown.
Your child needs to feel they can express themselves openly without criticism or contempt for their personal beliefs and values.
Your child will always see things from a different vantage point than you and respecting their view and opinion is one of the most important elements of positive and effective family communication.
8) Use Positive Communication:
Positive communication uses more "Do's" than "Don'ts". Let your children know what you would like them to do rather than what not to do.
Practice what you preach: remember they learn by example so don't speak ill of others if you don't expect your children to.
Use positive encouraging words at all times and be sure they are sincere. Positive reinforcement is important in raising well rounded children with positive self-esteem.
Always let your children know you have faith in them, praise efforts not just results and let them know you are always proud of them and love them unconditionally no matter what mistakes they make in life.
The point is not only to let them know you are proud of them, but, they should always be very proud of themselves.
Here are just a few very simple examples:
What an excellent job you've done, I'm very proud of you.
I have faith you can do anything you put your mind to.
What a wonderful idea you have come up with, good for you.
What a wonderful sense of humor you have and such a beautiful smile.
What a very wise decision you made, you must be very proud of yourself.
I can see you have great confidence in yourself, good for you.
That was a very nice thing you did, you are such a kind person.
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