Communication is one of the most vital aspects of parenting. It may also be one of the hardest. We can define communication as "any sharing of meaning between two (or more) people." Communication involves not only what we say, but how we say it. It involves both verbal and nonverbal language. For example, we can express love verbally by telling children that we love them, or nonverbally by giving them a hug or a smile. As we discussed in the last module, communicating with children is important to positive parenting as it helps parents guide and understand their children better. Effective communication takes time and practice, whether we are communicating with a child, a coworker, or a friend. One of the techniques to improve communication is to be a good listener. Children often have a great deal to say, but we may not listen closely or pay attention to what they are saying. Building a strong relationship involves really listening to what children say and then asking them relevant questions about themselves, their feelings, and their interests. Experts also recommend sending clear messages that are encouraging or positive. Today's parents are often busy individuals with multiple responsibilities. It can be easy for parents to slip into using negative or discouraging language when talking to or disciplining their children. How often have you heard a parent say things like, "Stop doing that," "Hurry up; I don't have all day," "I don't care what everyone else is doing; you're not doing that," "Don't just stand there," "Clean your plate," "Don't run in the house," "Can't you get anything right?" "Why can't you just do what I tell you?" "Why do you have to be so loud/annoying/frustrating?" These are just a few of the things that parents commonly say to children. Some of the language and messages may be even more negative and discouraging for children. Parents often use language like this as they try to get children to do something or to learn some lesson. While the child may get the message, the words create more of a negative interaction than parents might intend. When we use language like this we are telling, evaluating, criticizing, and lecturing on a one-way path rather than having a real interaction with the child that goes both ways and makes both participants feel valued and a part of the process. Most adults fall into the trap of using this type of language at some point, even in small doses, and it does take practice to break the habit and turn to more positive interactions. As we discussed in the last module on positive parenting, setting up clear expectations and choosing different words to communicate ideas can shift a negative interaction into a positive one. For example, perhaps you do not want a child to run in the house for safety reasons. When the child violates the rule, we might be tempted to say, "Don't run in the house." Instead, we might say, "Please walk in the house." This shifts the interaction to one of discipline and guiding. Communication and Correcting Mistakes
However, it is important to note that positive parenting is about guiding and teaching children. This doesn't mean that children get to do whatever they want or that parents should never exert control. There will be times when parents need to criticize a child or point out what the child is doing wrong. The key is that parents need to do so in a constructive way that helps children rather than a destructive way that can harm them. So how can we constructively criticize children to help them learn a better way of behaving or acting? Experts have noted several tips: Wait before criticizing out of anger. We are often most likely to criticize in nonhelpful ways when we are angry or frustrated. Before correcting a child, think about your own motivations for doing so. Is it really to help the child or is it because you are angry about what he or she is doing? Get the full story before jumping to conclusions. In some cases, we...
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