How often have we felt like we were speaking a different language than our kids? Raising children is never as easy as we thought it would be. The vision of kids who listen right away and follow directions dissipates when we realize we don’t even know how to communicate with our children.
We end up nagging, yelling, and frustrated. Feelings end up hurt and parents reach the end of their rope. Conscious parenting does not come intuitively for most people. Yet it can have incredible impacts once the habit is begun. Changing our default from frustration and yelling to gentle and conscious communication will not only benefit kids. It will overflow into better communication throughout all areas of life.
Parenting Advice to Build Communication Skills
Sometimes it feels like we speak a different language than our kids. It’s easy to get stuck in a cycle of bad communication. It can happen in any type of relationship, even in a parent-child relationship. Before we know it, we feel like we’ve lost our kids and have no idea how to communicate with them.
The years pass by stuck in a rut and tension continues to build. Parents yell, arguments ensue, and the family doesn’t feel connected. This can be repaired. Effective communication and conscious parenting are well worth the effort. In the remainder of this article, we’ll look at some practical parenting advice to help you strengthen your bond with your kids.
The conscious parent is in tune with their kids. Awareness of what’s going on with our children will make communication easier. If you’re not spending time with your kids and getting to know them, it’s going to be hard to communicate. Start a habit of one-on-one time with each child. 10-15 minutes a day is a good place to start. If you can give more, that is even better.
No screens. No phones. No distractions. Get to know your kid. Ask them questions about their interests, their friends, their school day, etc. 10-15 minutes a day of solid one-on-one time with each of your children may not seem like a lot, but it’s hard to communicate well with someone you don’t know. You may be surprised at what a difference this intentional time can make.
By spending intentional 1:1 time with each kid, you’ll be able to know when something is off. Kids may put on a different face or a different attitude around siblings or friends. If they are struggling with something, they may retreat to their rooms more often or spend more time on screens to distract themselves. If you’ve got a good habit of that regular 1:1 time, then you can be aware of their changes and help talk with them through any struggles they face.
Once you’ve reconnected with your child, new communication habits can begin to develop. You’ll discover each child has a communication approach that works best for them. Think about your group of friends for a moment. Is there a friend who doesn’t understand sarcasm and you’ve learned to be super literal with them?
How about the friend who constantly tells jokes and loves puns when communicating? Maybe there’s a friend who is always late, so you’ve learned to tell them to show up to an event half an hour before they need to be there. Or perhaps you have a forgetful friend, so you’re used to texting them a reminder the night before something important is happening.
Guess what you’ve done? Developed different communication approaches for each friend. Get to know your child so you can build these approaches with them as well. Yes, there are going to be times you need to communicate with the entire family and a different approach for each kid won’t work within time constraints. You’ll find a dynamic and rhythm that works well for the whole family.
Tips for Gentle and Effective Communication
Here are some practical parenting advice tips to help you better communicate with your children:
Swap out your language
This is going to be the bulk of change to more effective communication. We could easily do an entire post on this subject alone. The main idea is to talk to our kids with love, respect, and care. Speak to them the way you’d like to be spoken to. Speak to them with mutual respect as you’d speak to a dear friend. Avoid talking down to them, demeaning them, or harsh demands.
We are so distracted these days. When our children need us, it’s too easy to talk to them with one eye still on the phone or computer screen. This impacts communication. Many parents are finding it helpful to have specific times each day set aside for uninterrupted phone/computer time.
They take care of all messages, emails, social media, etc. during this time and the kids know not to interrupt unless there’s an emergency. The rest of the day, the phone is off and we are fully present to communicate well with our kids.
Stop the comparison
Do you have a friend who you feel is the picture-perfect parent? Instead of comparing yourself to them, ask them for advice. Instead of creating an idealized image of them, find out where they struggle and realize they’re people too!
Take a timeout
Yes, sometimes parents need a timeout, too. If you feel like the kids aren’t listening and you might blow a fuse, step away. Get a drink of water, do a few jumping jacks, hop in a quick shower, anything you need to do to calm down. Then come back and see if you can communicate differently.
Change the scenery or activityIf you’re having a hard time communicating, change things up. Send them outside to run around the yard for a few minutes and come back in to try again. Try large, gross motor movements. Give the kids a 15-minute art break. When kids’ brains are overwhelmed, processing information is hard. Try changing things up for a moment. It’ll give you a cool down and reset their brains too.
Only say something once
Stop nagging. Set a rule that directions are only going given once and need to be obeyed. Try to not give too much information at once. For a smaller child, give one piece of information and then give more once they’ve followed through. Three to four pieces of information can be given to an older child or teen. Have them repeat back to you so you know they heard you, and leave them to it. Nagging breeds habits of laziness.
Consistency is key
If you set some sort of a consequence, you have to follow through. Don’t tell the kids they’re going to lose screen time and not follow through on it. Don’t threaten a consequence you’re not actually going to enact. Kids will pick up on this and use it to their advantage.
Get parenting counseling
No matter what the communication struggles, counseling can be helpful. If you’re stuck in a toxic spiral of constantly yelling, a counselor can help you communicate differently. If you desire conscious communication, a counselor can help you figure out what’s going to work best for your family. Counselors are an excellent resource for developing and growing communication skills.
Remember, nobody is perfect. If you lose it and yell, congratulations! You’re a human who is showing real human emotion. Our children don’t need parent robots who never show feelings or emotions. What our kids need is to see us grow, develop skills, and teach forgiveness.
If you yell, lecture, or communicate in a way you regret, consider it a learning opportunity. First, apologize. Children need to see grace and humility from us. Next, remind them you’re human and have feelings too. Then, discuss the situation.
Let it be a teaching moment for them to see how you’re impacted by different situations. Reflect on what was learned from the situation. Accept forgiveness and grace from your children. Last, move on. Don’t dwell on what happened, move forward with forgiveness. Be glad you’re human and can teach your children.