Family Forum / By Judy Konitzer: Communicating with your children in a positive way is an agreed upon premise and one that can be further explored without this forum “preaching to the choir.”
“Parenting” (quoted from John Rosemond in our Augusta Chronicle Newspaper), means “going to great lengths to ensure their child does not experience frustration, hardships, defeat, failure, insult, rejection, unhappiness or anything else that goes along with living an authentic life. It is a vain attempt to emancipate a child and as a result, parents could be inadvertently holding their child back from becoming a rational, responsible, emotionally-resilient, self- controlled adult.”
Major Adam Lulay, Oregon National Guard 158th Aviation Unit, and former President of the Oregon Trail AAAA Chapter shares a morning “communicating” with his son William’s class at Boons Ferry Primary School, Wilsonville, Oregon, prior to his current two-year tour in Vietnam. / PHOTO BY MEGAN LULAY
By contrast “raising” a child focuses on character rather than achievement, respect for others as opposed to self-esteem, whereby lifting them out of childhood and into genuine adulthood. Positive communication along the road promotes this process. The bottom line is all children deserve to feel loved and accepted and we can communicate those feelings simply by the way we choose to speak. Their self-esteem is closely tied to their interactions and relationship with us as parents. Communication is more than just talking, as it involves your tone of voice, the words you choose, the setting where you are speaking, the volume of your voice, and your body language.
Get Your Child’s Attention
Children have a limited attention span and ability to focus so when you are speaking engage them in eye contact. Get on the same level physically and mentally and choose words that a child will understand.
Saying “please” softens requests and when followed with a specific request for action can get kids moving. Adding “thank you” in closing with any request reinforces that you expect a child to complete a job. It is important to control your emotions and not show anger or pleading.
Prepare to Repeat
Immature development enforces the need for children to be told over and over before they can commit it to memory. Focus on making sure your child understands what behavior you want to see and why that behavior is important to you.
Watch for Body Language
Research shows that as much as 90% of communication is nonverbal. Your stance, facial expressions, eye contact, and other nonverbal cues say far more than the actual words you use. Watch your body language and pay attention to your child’s nonverbal communication as well.
Choose Your Words Carefully
A carelessly chosen word spoken in haste can have great impact on a child’s self-esteem. Take care when choosing your words and do not let stress or frustration cause you to use negative words that can hurt your child’s feelings. Focus on the behavior you want changed, not the personality or attributes of the child.
Listening involves giving a speaker your full attention and focusing on what they are saying. Listen to your children without cutting them off. Make eye contact, then repeat back what you have just heard, so your child knows you understand. Be patient when younger children are speaking as it can take them longer to express their thoughts, feelings, and emotions. But in communicating with a teen, realize that the teen brain is not fully developed (the frontal lobe, which is responsible for problem solving and logic, does not mature until the mid to late 20s depending on gender) and is also good at tuning parents out and turning their words around at them. Listening to teens involves listening to them talk about their here and now. Sharing your experiences, good and bad, when you were a teen does not necessarily equate to their experiences today, so it is important to empathize with them and express how they would handle a situation or their frustration and fears for their future.
Studies show that family strength comes from commitment, time shared together, approval, acceptance, and the willingness to talk to each other. A recent quote attributed to Barbara Bush says, “You must read to your children, and you must hug your children, and you must love your children. Your sense as a family, our success as a society, depends not what happens in the White House, but in what happens in your house.”
Another noteworthy quote is from Maria McConville, spouse of GEN James McConville, our Army Chief of Staff, and although from an unknown source, she encourages us to: “Watch your thoughts, they become words. Watch your words, they become actions. Watch your actions, they become habits. Watch your habits, they become your character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”
Words and positive communication are vital and worthy of consideration for all of us.