by Elaine Stone
Communication is essential to all human relationships. Communication is either healthy or detrimental to individual relationships. Children learn how to communicate by imitating their parents. Communication begins the day a child is born and progresses and changes with each developmental stage and age. It plays a large role in shaping a child’s personality. What is learned at home in the arena of communication will carry over to all other relationships throughout a child’s life.
Parents communicate verbally and nonverbally to children. Actions and body language communicate without the spoken word. Eyes, expressions, and movement are all assessed and communicate whether one is aware or not. Children learn quickly to read parents body language and respond accordingly. But, the spoken word does not lack significance. Children need reassurance and security. They find it in the reassuring words of their parents. Actions can be misinterpreted and only go so far in communication. Children need to hear, often and definitively, that they are loved and cherished by their parents.
Dr. Vera Lane, Ph.D. and Dorothy Molyneaux, Ph.D., specialists in child-language development and family communication at the San Francisco State University College of Education recommend these ten everyday phrases to instill confidence, self-respect, and thoughtfulness in your children. “Thank you.” It's important to acknowledge children's efforts to help. “Tell me more.” Words like these show parents are listening and they would like to hear more about what's on the child’s mind. "Tell me more" encourages conversation without passing judgment or giving immediate advice. “You can do it” expresses confidence in a child's ability to do many things. “How can I help?” Children need to know parents are willing and available to help accomplish a task that may be difficult. “Let's all pitch in.” A child is never too young to learn that cooperation and team effort make many jobs easier and speedier. “How about a hug?” Show children they are loved. Research indicates that young children deprived of physical touch and displays of affection often fail to thrive. “Please.” After all these years, "please" is still a classic. “Good job!” Self-respect and self-confidence grow when your child's efforts and performance are rewarded. “It's time to...” “It's time to get ready for bed," or "do homework," or "turn off the TV." Young children need structure in their daily lives to provide a measure of security in an often insecure world. “I love you.” Everyone needs love and affection and a feeling of acceptance and belonging. Hearing it spoken reaffirms it. Letting children know they are loved (and showing it with countless hugs) is important not only in toddlerhood, but also as they gets older. (http://life.familyeducation.com/communication/parenting/29547.html?page=1&detoured=1, accessed Dec. 2008)
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a four important ways to build healthy family communication. First, “Be available.” Make time in everyone's busy schedule to stop and talk about things. Give undivided attention. Sit down and maintain eye contact when talking. Those few minutes a day can be of great value. Second, “Be a good listener.” Children feel loved and valued when listened to. Ask about their feelings on a subject. Repeat what is being said to be sure it is understand correctly. Agreement with the child is not necessary to be a good listener. Third, “Show empathy.” This means tuning in to the child's feelings and express understanding. If a child is sad or upset, a gentle touch or hug lets them know they are understood. Be careful not to tell a child what he thinks or feels. Let him express those feelings. And be sure not to minimize these feelings by saying things like, "It's silly to feel that way," or "You'll understand when you get older." His feelings are real to him and should be respected. Finally, “Be a good role model.” Remember, children learn by example. Parents should use words and tones in their voices that they want their child to use. Make sure that your tone of voice and actions send the same message. Use words to describe feelings, it will help children learn to do the same. For example, when parents use feeling words, such as, "It makes me feel sad when you won't do what I ask you to do," instead of screaming or name calling, children learn to do the same. (http://www.aap.org/publiced/BR_Communicate.htm, accessed Dec. 2008)
George Bernard Shaw has been noted as saying, “The problem with communication ... is the illusion that it has been accomplished.” (http://www.wisdomquotes.com/cat_communication.html, accessed Dec. 2008) It is easy in this fast paced 21st century to take communication for granted. Parents, if not astute, may assume their children understand their hearts and that love is translated through their actions and behavior. They flutter on in everyday busyness shaking heads and muttering a few words and priceless opportunities of communication and learning disappear never to be captured again. Children’s’ future relationships suffer from the lack of learning and precious self-esteems are left wondering and contemplating the love of their parents. St Augustine said, "I learnt most not from those who taught me, but from those who talked with me." (http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/talktoy, accessed Dec. 2008) Communication is a reciprocal behavior. It is engaged in by two. Children need parents to engage and talk with them regularly. Parents have the opportunity to be "influencers" in the lives of their children simply by talking with them. Children need to practice this art of communication in the security and safety of their own homes. They need parents to express out loud their heartfelt love and affirmation. Young hearts need to feel and know the acceptance and security of a love so important their parents took the time to talk with them about it, everyday.
Children thrive on positive attention. By selecting and using some of the phrases below on a daily basis, parents will find children paying more attention and will try harder to please.
Yes, Good, Fine, Very good, Very fine, Excellent, Marvelous,
At-a-boy, Right, That’s right, Correct, Wonderful,
I like the way you do that, I’m pleased with (proud of) you,
That’s good, Wow, Oh boy, Very nice, Good work, Great going,
Good for you, That’s the way, Much better, O.K.,
You’re doing better, That’s perfect, Good idea, What a cleaver idea,
That’s it, Good job, Great job controlling yourself ,
I like the way you ______, I noticed that you ____, Keep it up,
I had fun ______ with you, You are improving at ______ more and more,
You showed a lot of responsibility when you ______, Way to go,
I appreciate the way you ______, You are great at that, You're the best,
Good remembering, That’s beautiful, I like your______,
I like the way you ______ with out having to be asked (reminded),
I’m sure glad you are my son/daughter, Now you’ve got it,
I love you
(http://www.childdevelopmentinfo.com/parenting/communication.shtml, accessed Dec. 2008)
Tell them and SHOW them how you feel.
Smile, Nod, Pat on shoulder, head, knee, Wink
Signal or gesture to signify approval, High five, Touch cheek
Tickle, Laugh (with, not at), Pat on the back, Rub arm or back, Hug, Kiss