Today we are experiencing an ever-growing communication gap between parents, teachers and the children whom they are responsible for. Only through honest and sincere communication can we help our children to become honest, healthy and happy individuals. Some of the basic concepts of communication expressed in earlier chapters are repeated here with emphasis on communication with children.
THE BASIS OF COMMUNICATION
The guidelines for effective communication with children are, of course, the same as those for communication between all human beings.
The basis of communication is the golden rule, “do to others as you would like others to do to you”. So we simply need to ask, “how we would like others to communicate with us?” Here are some thoughts:
1. We would all like honesty from all who communicate with us. No one likes being told lies. Nor do we like people to make up stories and excuses. We would like to hear the truth about what the other is thinking, feeling or doing. We feel safer, more able to cope with any situation when we know what we are dealing with. The same holds for our children. When we tell them lies, they feel insecure and distrustful of the world around them. They learn to tell lies. There can be no communication in such a case. Although the truth might not always be the easiest response, it is always the “soul- ution”
2. We all want logical reasoning and explanations from the person who is communicating with us. If he or she speaks in an irrational way, or says, “look it will simply be done this way and I have no intention of explaining to you why; do it that way because I said so, because I want it that way, although it seems illogical”, we will not feel very happy. We will feel that the other has no interest in our needs or feelings. We will feel that he or she is not respecting us. This is the way our children feel when we give orders or make statements without explaining the reasons behind them.
No child is too young to be spoken to with reason and logic. Even if he or she cannot grasp all the factors involved, he or she will at least feel respected. That is extremely important.
3. Respect is absolutely essential in communication. We need to respect both ourselves and the other. That means that on the one hand, we do not suppress that which we want or feel, and on the other, we do not suppress the other. It also means that we do not shout at, criticize or demean the others with harsh words. We would not like to be talked to in this way. Children are even more sensitive and vulnerable to shouting and harsh words. Their self-image and sense of security are seriously undermined.
Respect breeds respect. When we show respect to our children during their early years they will return this behavior in the later years. If we frequently criticize, blame, demean or speak down to them, we will find that during adolescence, this lack of respect will then be returned to us.
4. We all want to be loved. We want to know that the other person cares for us, accepts us. It is not necessary for them to agree with us or accept all that we do or believe. We can accept each other despite our differences. This kind of unconditional acceptance is essential for open, honest communication. If we feel that the other is going to get angry, reject us or nag me for something which we will tell him or her, then we will likely not communicate at all with that person. This is a situation children get into frequently.
When we continuously criticize and advise our children, they gradually stop telling us what they are doing. They stop communicating, because whatever they will say will be criticized. Or they may start criticizing us. They start rejecting whatever we say. They may do this with words or with actions which symbolize rebellion, independence and rejection of our beliefs.
Assurance that there will always be love and acceptance, whatever the one or the other may do, keeps the channel open for honest communication. We are talking about accepting the being and not every action which he or she may perform. This distinction is important. We can express our displeasure or disagreement concerning a particular belief or behavior, while still feeling love and acceptance for the child.
5. Our children look for consistency from their elders. We have discussed this in the previous chapter. When there is no consistency between words and actions, the basis of communication breaks down, because words have no meaning they are empty.
6. Communication is a two way process. We need to learn to speak and to listen. We do not like communicating with someone who talks continuously and does not allow us a chance to express ourselves. On the other hand, neither do we like it when we speak and the other does not respond. A balance is needed. Most of us need to learn to listen more. Children need a sounding board for their thoughts, discoveries and problems. If we are not capable of listening properly our children will close up and / or find someone else to talk with.