You know the old saying. Perhaps your mama said it or your grandma said it or the mean ole lady next door said it to your mama about you,
“Children should be seen and not heard!”
Which is really ridiculous because this statement implies that children should not be SEEN or HEARD. And I don’t know about you, but I believe part of the reason the world is so jacked up today is because we’ve got adult “children” running around today who are broken; they weren’t seen or heard and their behavior is a cry to be noticed.
But can we just give a holla and a hand clap that we are empowered to parent as we see fit. While mama & ‘nem gave us some fundamental tools that have helped us become successful, today we can keep, adapt, modify or even discard some of the things we saw and heard in our childhood.
Let’s be clear, children should be SEEN and HEARD.
The heart of every human craves connection. And when connection is stifled, it will manifest in a myriad of unpleasant ways. So let’s cut that off at the pass and be purposeful in connecting with our children. And one of the primary ways we connect hearts is through open, loving communication. So here are 5 ways you can communicate better with your child starting today.
1. Check Your Filter
Your ability to communicate effectively is greatly impacted by what’s on your filter. Your filter is your heart. As you go through life, you continually accumulate on that filter. Your core beliefs, your upbringing, your hurts, they all adhere to your filter and impact your ability to communicate effectively. So the first step in communicating with your child better is to check your filter. Have quiet moments of reflection, examining yourself and do the work of releasing hurt, guilt, shame and whatever else comes up so that you clean your filter. If you do not regularly clean the filter in your clothes dryer, you can cause a fire. The same can be said for the heart filter. If not cleaned, your communication can erupt in flames.
2. Be Present
Checking your phone with every ding of every notification, watching Netflix, running errands, you know the drill. While these things are seemingly small, they can choke the life right out of your communication. In order to communicate better, you must be present. Physical presence and mental/emotional presence are two different things. Children need your presence yet the issues of life can suffocate presence. You can be so consumed with your own thoughts, your own emotions and your own problems that you are detached and your children can’t reach you. Sweet mama, I know it’s tough but you can do it. Journal, pray, talk to a friend so you can work through your stuff, put that phone down, eliminate distractions and make yourself available to your child.
3. Listen Actively
Are you a multitasking listener? You know, listening with one ear, but really doing 99 other things? Is your child trying to talk to you and you respond, “Mmm Hmm,” knowing full well you don’t know what the heck they just asked you? Yup, I’ve done it too. I also know that I’ve answered yes to something I normally wouldn’t have consented to because I wasn’t actively listening. So after you’ve eliminated the distractions and are present (Tip #2), gain direct eye contact with the child. You can put a hand on the shoulder or a finger under the chin and look directly into the child’s eyes. This shows that you are giving them your full, undivided attention. Then prepare yourself to actually listen. This means you are NOT listening merely to respond but are listening to hear what’s on their hearts. While listening you are not drafting your reply in your head but you are poised and positioned to truly hear from them.
4. Be Empathetic
As you filter through their words, what are they really trying to communicate? A toddler could be emphatically telling you, “I DON’T WANNA GO!” when they really mean I’m sleepy. Being empathetic means you are putting yourself in the child’s shoes and are truly trying to understand them. It means you are extending care, compassion and concern for what’s important to them. It means you are lovingly responding to their needs in the moment. When children know that you love them and that you show you care by being empathetic, it creates a safe space for effective communication.
5. Choose Wise Words
Are you thinking about what you’re saying before you say it? Are you telling them how they feel? “You’re not hungry, you just ate.” “You’re not sleepy you’ve been sleep half the day.” Or are you asking close ended questions like “Did you behave yourself in school today?” It is critical that you choose your words wisely. The wrong words will cut off communication before it’s even has a chance to flow. Instead, communicate in a way that fosters open dialogue by asking open ended questions. “So tell me about…” or “What was the hardest part of your day?” or “What made you smile today”. Using these words creates an atmosphere ripe for better communication and makes it easier to communicate with your child.
So ask yourself, what’s in my heart that could be standing in the way of open communication? Am I present or distracted? Do I actively listen and listen with the heart? Am I asking open ended questions? Can I be more careful with my words?
By employing the above strategies, you will not only communicate better with your child, but your communication will improve straight across the board, with your man, your employer and in all your other relationships. I’m over here dancing because I see you immediately putting these tools in place as you communicate with your child better. You’ve got this mama!