No Escape, Parents! You Are Your Children’s First Models in Communication!

What You Want To See In Your Child’s Communication Style

So, what are some things that you want to see in your child’s communication style? There seems to be a whole list of qualities that we want to see in our children when they communicate. We want to see them using eye contact to show an interest and respect toward the person talking, or the person they are talking to. We want them to display self-control and not interrupt in the middle of a conversation. We want them to be attentive listeners, and to be able to respond appropriately. We want them to be able to use body language such as a head-nod or a smile whenever appropriate. We want them to enunciate their words clearly and slowly enough to be understood. And, we want them to use correct grammar and proper sentence structures.

Let’s make a mental note of this long list of communication skills that you desire your child to possess and demonstrate, although not even an exhaustive list:

  • A good habit of using eye contact, to indicate interest and respect
  • Self control and the ability to refrain from interrupting a conversation
  • Attentive listening behavior and the ability to give an appropriate response 
  • The use of appropriate body language such as a head-nod or a smile
  • Clear pronunciation and well-paced speech
  • Proper vocabulary usage and correct grammar and sentence structures

Wow! That is a quite a huge amount to ask for in a child’s manner of communication! We had better start training them right away 🙂 !

Parents Are The First Models

Well, parents are not only the first teachers, they are the first models in their children’s homes. It is said that if your child does not act like you when they are 16, don’t worry, because once they turn 26, you will then suddenly see yourself, I mean your own image in your child, all over again! In other words, if this is true, once your child turns 26 (some take a few more years until they are 30 or over 🙂 ), they will start to talk like you! So, how you speak, and how you listen, in short how you communicate with your child when you are 30 (and maybe your child is only 7 at this time), could well have a permanent, or at least a pretty important or long-lasting, impact in your child’s life!

Some Tips on how to become your child’s model for communication

So, you may want to build yourself up to be a kind of model for communication in front of your child for them to imitate. However, that may not always be plausible or do-able… Well, since old habits often die hard, we might want to really seek a change in our own communication style first, before trying to train our kids in this area. So, it is obvious that we cannot just “talk”, or teach with our “talk”, we need to “walk our talk”, or really do what we say, if we want to help our children do those same things. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Learn to be a good listener and communicator yourself, so as to be a more “natural” good model whenever you listen to and speak with your child. Practice makes perfect, so practicing good listening and communicating skills at all times will make you into a more “natural” good model for your child to imitate. So, you may want to use proper eye contact when you are listening to them, just like you would like them to practice using eye contact when they speak with others. Refrain from interrupting your child when they are talking. Just like we do not want our children to interrupt in the middle of our sentences, we definitely want to model this virtue by listening well and listening attentively when they want to get a message across to us. Speak reasonably slowly and enunciate clearly if you want your child to do the same. And, whatever vocabulary, grammar, or sentence structures you use at home, your child will probably be repeating those at school and with their friends and siblings and cousins and grannies as well. Therefore, it sounds like we parents would never be able to really escape the “walk our talk” methodology 🙂

Now that we have improved our own manner of communication, we can proceed to help our children improve their communication style! Here are some ideas to chew on:

  • Set aside some time each day to be “extra approachable”. This will help you maintain an open line of communication with your child. If we want to support the development of their social and communication skills, first we need to start growing an effective line of communication between us and our children. Parents are busy and tired people. It is very easy for us to focus entirely on “providing” for our children, cooking for them, supervising their homework, helping them with their projects and tests, driving them to school and to other outside activities…, or just trying to get some well-deserved rest or passive entertainment because we are SO exhausted. And so, we sometimes forget to keep our line of communication with our child “open”. Sometimes we are so busy and get so tired from doing all the “daily essentials”, that we can totally forget to even “talk” with our children at all! We tend to ask them to play or read quietly while we prepare their next day’s packed lunch in a hurry, or we are quite dead in front of our TV’s because we have just had a solid 8-hour work day. It is not easy at all. But, if our children have a great need to develop their communication skills, we will have to have at least a certain amount of time set aside each day for open communication with them. And we will need to be approachable at least during those “set-aside” times. So that your child will know, at least for that hour, or even that half-hour, each evening, “my parent will be able to listen and talk with me”. It would be helpful to be able to keep this “Talk Time” available to your child each day. And your child needs to know that this “Talk Time” actually exists. And that they can actually count on it to happen every evening.
  • Allow more process time. For some children with limited communication skills, “process time” is exceedingly important. Allow your child lots of “process time” before hurrying them to dive into a conversation. As well, allow them sufficient time to finish their whole story. This is especially important for children who have more problems in effective communication. Once a child knows that you are giving them ample time to start their story and to finish their story, they can now begin to feel at ease about taking time to relate to you things that they feel are really important to them. You always want to know all the details that they live on, and you always want to know the complete story. 
  • Grow your story-teller. When your child has an important story to tell you, try to avoid correcting every grammar mistake or criticizing every language detail. If you do this, you are interrupting and frustrating the story-teller and discouraging him or her from telling you their story the next time. Because, this is simply not the right time to point out their incorrect grammar, or teach them how to properly use their connecting words. This is just a time for you to go “Ooh!” and “Aah!” A time to perhaps enjoy a free flow of inside stories and secret emotions from your child to you, a “heart-to-heart” time for the two of you… So you must not ruin such an opportunity.
  • Take your turn to talk. You may want to begin by telling your child your appreciation for their sharing of their life with you. Your turn to talk is extremely important. You are modeling how to give an appropriate response after listening attentively, and deciphering some important information that your child has just given you. Not responding or responding with just an “eh-huh”, will discourage your child from believing that you really care about what they just told you. You don’t always need to give advice, although advice is good too. But you should always let them know that you have heard them, by asking for more details, or just by adding a small comment, such as “That was really funny!” Or “I wish I was there to see you do that!” etc. Allowing your child to see that you value their sharing of their life with you, by paying attention to them and then giving a proper response, will make a huge difference in the way you child understands good communication.