Tuesday, January 19, 2010

10 communication mistakes parents make

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1) Having low expectations.
If we have low expectations about the kind of communication we have with our children then we are not going to push ourselves to make it better.

2) Not being able to move forward.
This is related to the low expectations. For example, if there are some issues with our children and we keep bringing up events in the past, we are not able to transcend beyond what has happened in the past, then we are going to get stuck.

The best thing is to just tell yourself, “Today is a new day”. We just have to leave the past in the past. We need to give communication with our children a good chance every day.

We need to keep in mind that change begins with the smallest of things and when we say things could be better, it's not going to be better overnight. If communication has broken down for many years, then we cannot expect it to be better overnight.

3) Jumping to conclusions.
We should allow our children to explain the situation instead of making assumptions and jumping to conclusions.

4) Be specific.
If we are not happy about something, we need to be specific about what it is we are unhappy about rather than generalising and accusing them by saying 'You always do this' or 'You never do that'. Not being specific and using ambiguous words will lead to miscommunication and jumping to conclusions.

5) Not being sensitive to our children's emotions.
When we are tired, angry or stressed, we tend not to be effective communicators. That's not a good time to communicate and there is a risk of being insensitive to their emotions. So, if you are tired or stressed, then wait until you feel better before communicating with your child. If it's not urgent, ask your child if you can talk about it later. If it's urgent, then you'll just have to do it then and there, of course.

6) Information overload.
We tend to communicate a lot of things to our children in one breath. Sometimes, we may not be happy about certain things that our children do and for some reason we don't communicate specifically what we are unhappy with. So it just piles up and piles up until one day we are so angry that it's like a dam breaking and everything goes out and we have forgotten what the specifics are. We don't even remember what we are angry with, and that's when we make generalisations and accusations. That is always something that we need to avoid.

Be specific. Don't say, 'You are lazy, you NEVER …'.

Words like 'never' – we really have to be careful of that.

You really need to be as specific as possible – what do you want them to do.

7) Not taking the chance to listen.
They need a chance to show us what they are capable of. And as much as we love them and are concerned that they might make mistakes, mistakes are the things that make people a lot wiser. So, we need to keep our concerns, worries and anxieties in check. Sometimes we just need to let them go, listen to them and allow them to make their own mistakes.

8) Not being able to rephrase.
Rephrasing is a very effective way to communicate. Effective communication takes place when the intended message gets to the receiver. But how do we make sure that this happens, because sometimes when somebody says something we might hear it another way. If you're not sure, say something to the effect, 'Do you mean to say that …' just to make sure you are on the same page. Being able to rephrase is important, regardless of how old the child is and especially with teenagers.

9) It's not just about listening; it's also about making a connection.
If we don't make the time to connect with our child, it's just a matter of time before there will be distancing between us and our child and then we cannot build trust and respect. Without trust we cannot impart the values we really want to impart to our children.

10) If there is more than one child, we need to spend time communicating with them individually.
When we have more than one, the elder ones are often given less attention. The child's age doesn't matter. Younger and older children need attention. Spend time individually with each child. Perhaps take each one out alone – time alone with mum or dad. Rotate them on a regular basis, perhaps monthly.

Taking time to do this solves a lot of problems, even issues like sibling rivalry that crop up in many families. When we make them feel like they're somebody and not like the rest of the siblings, somehow these issues disappear. If we want them to open up more to us we need to listen more rather than talk more.

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