How to improve communication with your child

When speaking to our children, we will have a much greater impact if we try, as much as possible to communicate within these suggested guidelines (Dr Steve Buys).

So often we teach our children to respond to our voice and not our words, we need to learn how to improve communication with our children.

Let me illustrate this

You say to your child, “Pack your bags please” and you get no response. You repeat yourself, “Pack your bags” (a little louder) and still you get no response. So you shout even louder, “Pack your bags!” your child jumps up and packs their bags.

What just happened here is that you have trained your child to respond to your voice and not your words.

Imparting a bad habit

Yelling angrily when your child does not comply is a product of thoughtlessness, of not thinking through the consequences of your actions.

Even though your child might not be able to verbalize his feelings, he or she will be absorbing the message- yell first, think later.

So thoughtfulness is essential when setting limits.

If you want your child to listen to you without shouting, you will have to change the way you speak to your child.

In the beginning it will take some work and your input will be greater than your output. In other words, in the beginning you will do a lot of work and see very little change, but as you persist in changing the way you speak, you will see major changes.

There are five main things to bear in mind in communication. This applies to anyone that you are communicating with

  1. Decide beforehand what you want to accomplish
  2. Say only what you need to say nothing more
  3. Don’t ask questions that don’t have an actual answer
  4. Don’t use blame, criticism, accusation, punishment or humiliation
  5. Always be ready to stop when things get to heated

1. Decide beforehand what you want to accomplish

Before you talk to your child, think about what you want to achieve. Is it a request, praise, thanks, instruction? Or are you just asking for information about their day.

Start changing one area at a time and see what happens.

2. Say only what you need to say nothing more

When your child or teen goes to the shop with you and it was a good time, then tell them, “Thanks for coming to the shop with me it was great spending time with you.”

Don’t say, “Thanks for coming to the shop with me, and not wining” Or “Thanks for coming to the shop with me and leaving your bad attitude behind”.

 3. Don’t ask questions that don’t have an actual answer

When you ask your child, “Why did you leave the lid off the jam?” How should they answer that?

  • After you’ve asked your unanswerable question, what’s the next step?
  • What answer could your son possibly come up with as to “why” he’s so stubborn or difficult?
  • How does tossing this “question” at him address the underlying issue—how you’re going to control his overindulgence in video games?
  • And even if he does submit and pick up his stuff, how will you deal with his sullen attitude? Those are the questions that actually need answers.

Hopefully these tips will help you achieve better communication with your child. Happy Parenting!

By Dr Steve Buys, Specialist Counsellor.


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Kids Connection was successfully launched in March 2006 by Wendy Beaufort for distribution to parents and teachers in the local Port Elizabeth market. The comprehensive directory for young families from newborn to 12 years, was born because, Wendy, a mom of three, understood the importance of having detailed information related to children that is aimed at assisting young families spend less time PLANNING and more time PLAYING….READ MORE