How we communicate can determine the outcome in nearly every situation that we have with our kids. Mighty Mommy shares four reasons that communication is crucial to parenting and how you can begin to make significant changes that will benefit your entire family.
Our kids are quite astute at knowing whether we feel like spending time with them or even have a couple of minutes to connect and see how their day was. Hey, there’s no question it’s not easy when families constantly run full throttle to make ends meet and keep it all going—something has to give, and many times it means we operate on a shorter fuse than we’d like. Kids have the same struggles that we as parents have in their own world, just on a different level. Most times, if they know they have a place to turn to—us, their parents—even the most monumental problem (not being invited to someone’s sleepover) can be put in the proper perspective because they have a parent’s shoulder to lean on.
One of my favorite TV personalities, Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD, weighs in on how important it is for parents to be tuned in to the body language they display to their kids. He writes: “Research shows that when communicating a message, the tone of voice is twenty times more important than the actual words of the message. And that's an important message for all of us to remember—whether we're parents of newborns or toddlers, not to mention tweens, teens, and beyond.
Nonverbal communication and the emotion it conveys account for more than 90 percent of what your child "hears" you say. The total impact of our parental messaging breaks down like this:
- 7% verbal (words)
- 38% vocal (volume, pitch, rhythm, and so on)
- 55% body movements (mostly facial expressions)
Next time you are interacting with your kids, whether it be for something wonderful that happened or perhaps you’re not pleased with your daughter’s skirt she chose for school that day—be mindful of the body language you are displaying. Rather than rolling your eyes and looking disgusted, give her a hug and ask if you can go shopping together soon.
2. Ordinary Interactions Set the Stage
For the many years I longed to become a mom, I envisioned the magical moments of parenting: first words, first steps, joining teams, making best friends, driver’s license, prom, college. I longed for it so much so that I completely underestimated and overlooked the real important times—eating pancakes together, hanging out in the backyard, watching classics like "The Wizard of Oz," and quite frankly having them home safe and sound every night while they were still under my watch, before they left this cozy nest and headed off to college or to be out on their own.
Embracing the ordinary moments in parenting is a wonderful time to build your platform for communicating effectively with your kids. It’s so easy to get caught up in the throes of the hustle and bustle of life. Trying to get your kids up and out the door for school while trying to maintain your sanity getting off to work on time day in and day out can seem monumental, but can provide a wonderful opportunity to stay connected.
Comment on how restful your child looks when she wakes up (groggy and all) for school. “You look like you had a great night’s sleep. Did you have any dreams last night you’d like to tell me about?”
Or on those nights you do all get to share dinner as a family, ask questions about their day. Listen to how awful biology class was—really listen, not just blow it off. Take all the ordinary opportunities that present themselves and connect with questions, comments, and most importantly, listen—not just with your ears, but with your expressions and your heart.
3. You Can Be the Voice of Reason
For years now, there have been many a controversial discussion on whether or not parents should be their child’s best friends. (To be discussed in a future Mighty Mommy episode.)
Tovah P. Klein Ph.D. sheds insight into why parents feel the need to be BFFs with their kids in addition to being their parental figure. She sums up a Psychology Today article with these thoughts: “Our main role as parents is neither to make our children happy nor micromanage/control their lives. Finding the balance is key. In a nutshell, it is to help them develop the capacity to handle life’s hurdles (there will be many), and grow into confident and independent adults capable of caring about others. We can’t do that by treating them like 'mini-adults' one moment and controlled subordinates the next.”