SPEAK WITH KINDNESS
It is natural and given that all parents love their children. This unconditional love makes parents want to provide the best for their children so they will grow up feeling happy and loved. To achieve that, how we communicate our love for children is crucial. Giving your child expensive gifts, enrol them into the best school is not the way to express love, engaging in positive and healthy communication, on the other hand, is the right way to communicate love.
How parents interact with children serves as a learning baseline and foundation of all future relationships. Children see and learn through their parents. If parents talk in a negative and toxic way, it is no surprise that children will pick that up and translate those experiences into their communication style too. Therefore, we as adults and role models should set the standard for positive communication for children from young, so children will grow up having the skills to communicate healthily with family and friends.
One of the most important elements of positive communication is speaking with kindness. Below are the Do's and Don't when you interact with children.
1. Stay at the child's level.
Go down to the child's level when you communicate. Instead of standing up, try bending or sit down until you are at the child's eye level. Eye contact and mutual respect are important. Let them know you are sincerely listening and understanding what they are telling you. This will build trust and connection between parents and children.
As parents, it is important to see things from the child's perspective. After all, every individual is different and each of them has their point of view. Just because you are a parent, does not mean children have to share your world views. Remember, children's reasoning and rational part of the brain is still developing until age 25, so it is normal for a child to not understand. Scolding and yelling will make your child fear you, and in turn, they will refuse to listen. What you can do is to sit down, and listen to them without critical judgement. Let your child be heard. Validate and acknowledge their feelings.
3. Be supportive.
Every child needs mental and emotional support. If you always yell when they make mistakes, they will have nowhere to turn to for support and help. Let them know that you will be there to support them no matter what. Show your child that you are someone they can trust when they make mistakes and fail.
1. Don't overpower your children.
If you set yourself as a figure of authority, instead of listening to your children and understanding them, you want children to obey you, to listen to you, and to respect you. When you do that, you will not achieve mutual trust and respect. Children will be afraid to talk to you and share their experiences with you. Children need you as their mom and dad, someone who will love and support them, and not being the boss of them.
2. Don't take children's words lightly.
When children tell you how they feel and what their thoughts are, do not easily dismiss their ideas and feelings. To you, it might not be a big deal, but to them it is. They trust you enough to tell you about their experiences, and if you shut them off by saying "that is nothing", or "why are you upset over something so small", or "your ideas are childish and bad," children will feel invalidated and devalued. And children will not want to communicate their feelings anymore. Instead, you can say "I'm sorry you feel that way, let me know if there's anything I can help to make you feel better". Here you show them that you acknowledged their feelings and you are there to support them.
Related: Embrace emotions, not fight them
3. Don't punish.
When children engage in negative behaviour, they need parent's support and guidance to teach them how to right those wrongs. Instead of "don't yell at your sister or I'll hit you!" parents can say "honey, you can tell your sister to stop politely." Guide them to find a solution, not punish the problem.
Related: Discipline vs punishment
Remember, how your children speak reflects on your communication style with them. If you speak with kindness, your child will do it too.