One of my friends that inspired this blog is a single dad with an 11-year-old son. My friend—let’s call him John—is worried that ever since his mom went away, the kid keeps to himself a lot. Doesn’t tell him how his day went. Doesn’t tell him what he learnt in school. Doesn’t tell stories about his friends like a regular kid would. So John and I got together to do a fair bit of research on how to communicate with children in a manner that they would respond to. So today, I’m going to share some of the things we found that might help you out with your kids, too.
1. Give Them Undivided Attention
You know why some kids don’t talk to their parents as much? They think that their mums and dads are too busy for them. When your child comes to you with a problem, stop what you are doing and listen to them. Give them your full attention no matter how inconsequential their problem. By doing so, you become a reliable figure in their lives, someone that takes them seriously. Because if you, the parent aren’t being their rock, they’ll go elsewhere to look for one.
2. Say Their Name When Making Requests
Addressing someone with their name tends to catch their attention instantly. So, when you want your kids to do something, say their name first. “John, please clean your room” is polite yet authoritative. But it also attaches their identity to the request, making them more likely to do it.
3. The ‘I’ Instead of ‘You’ Rule
When your kid has done something wrong, avoid saying things like “You did this.” It sounds like an accusation which will make them feel like they are being attacked. This will make them argue and be defensive with you. Try saying “I need to talk about this” and you’ll have a calmer, healthier conversation.
4. Be Interested In Their Day
No matter how short their answers, don’t give up on asking “How was your day?” Encourage them to talk about their interests, the music they listen to, the books they read, the shows they watch. Strike conversations about why they like them. Talk about the people they met or the things they did. Don’t turn “How was your day?” into an empty tradition. Make it count and your kids will realize that you actually are interested in their life.
Now there are probably plenty more tools out there, but John tells me these were the ones that helped him out the most. Sometimes parents forget what mattered to them as children so they don’t treat their kids like they wanted to be treated when they were young. John says that all he had to tell his 11-year-old was that he cared about him. He cared about the littlest things in his life. And that’s how he started communicating back.
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