Do you consider yourself a good listener? Do you actively listen to your children and engage them in meaningful conversation? Or do you tend more toward talking, lecturing, and advising? Many early-childhood psychologists and social workers agree that parents can enhance communication when they stop and listen to their children. You may gain an unparalleled understanding of your children's needs when you allow them to talk, share feelings, and express concerns.
Julie Scandora, a mother of three and author of the children's book Rules Are Rules, offers five practical tips that can help you along the road to better communication with your children:
1) Listen. It sounds obvious, but if your children don't think they'll be heard, they won't come to you with the hard questions or problems.
2) Create opportunities for interaction with your kids. Use car time—such as the 20-minute drive to school—as a time to communicate with them.
3) Lead by example. Far too many parents opt for the do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do approach. This sends mixed messages to children regarding important situations.
4) Respect your child's intuition. We all have gut feelings; if kids are encouraged to trust theirs, they'll be able to heed their intuition in dicey situations when you aren't around to help.
5) Don't confuse respect with giving in. It is important that the parental role not be usurped. Don't give in to kids just to defuse a problematic situation. Instead, communicate with them and let them know why rules are rules.
Effective communication is essential in any relationship. By listening to your children, you teach them good communication skills that will last a lifetime.