As parents we're often caught up in visions of our what our children will be like as they grow. Thinking about how their personalities will blossom, and finding out what things they will be interested in can be fun, but also brings up questions about how you plan to parent your child as your relationship changes. We all want our kids to depend on us, turn to us for answers to their questions, and trust us to understand their wants and needs. When it comes down to communication, what can we be doing to make sure we are able to talk to our children as they get older? Here are 3 ideas for things you can do now to develop open communication with your child from an early age.
POSITIVE or NEUTRAL SPEAKOne of the most important things that I have learned, not only as a parent, but with working with young children, is to use positive or neutral speak. The basic concept is to avoid words like no, don't, or can't when dealing with your kid's basic behaviors (exceptions obviously apply when safety is a concern). This type of environment is meant to help your child understand their own capabilities, instead of their limitations. When your child is yelling or acting out when they don't get their way instead of saying, "No more tears! You can't just yell when you don't get what you want," you could try saying, "Mom will listen when you choose to use a softer voice. When you calm down we can talk about what you need." This type of change in our everyday communication with our young children will help them recognize the choices they make and the responses to good (or bad) behaviors. The upside to this method is that you're also not walking around yelling, "NO!" all day.
EYE LEVEL and LISTENINGAnother great thing to help create open communication with your young kids is to make sure you are talking with them at eye level. If you've got a child who doesn't speak yet, it's still important to make eye contact, and to ask questions, explain things, and read to them. When your child is learning to speak, and their vocabulary is growing it can be difficult for them to express themselves. Sometimes this inability to communicate can be frustrating, and you may notice some tantrums or tears because of it. The best way to help a child communicate is to kneel down to be eye level with your child, look them in the eye, and let them tell you what they need/want. Make sure you are allowing your child the time that they need to talk. We are all busy, and have something that needs to get done, but talking with your child should always take first priority.
READING BODY LANGUAGE
Sometimes our kids are speaking loudest when they aren't talking at all. When you are dealing with a young child, verbal or not, their body language will tell you a lot about how they are feeling. You know your child better than anyone, so it's up to you to read their cues, and approach them with their feelings in mind. This can make a world of a difference when it comes to creating a relationship of understanding with your children from a young age. If their body language is suggesting that they are embarrassed or anxious you will speak differently to them than if they appear angry or aggressive.