Many parents think open communication with a child should come naturally, but the truth is, open communication must be encouraged and developed by both you and your child throughout every stage of life.
Careful and purposeful communication can be cultivated by following the five rules of parenting listed by the website Rules of Parenting.
First, “realize that your child has a say.” Acknowledge that your child is a person with his or her own opinions. You may not always agree with those opinions, but validating that they exist will go a long way toward building trust. Speak respectfully to your child, and ask that he/she follow the same rule of courtesy when speaking to you.
Next, “judge not.” Listen without being overly critical. Try not to interrupt your child as he/she is talking. Keep your negativity in check. Listen with an open heart. Approach communication as a two-way conversation. You will each get a chance to speak and to listen. Take turns.
“Ask, listen, and laugh.” Ask your child questions, and when he/she answers, listen. Be present. Stop what you are doing and look at your child. If you are truly engaged in a conversation, you will be open to the emotion of the story being told. That allows for a genuine exchange of thoughts and feelings.
Laugh when appropriate. Dr. Robin Dunbar has studied the effects of laughter and found that it fosters closeness in a group and helps promote and maintain bonds. Sharing laughter with your child creates closeness between you.
Step four: “Praise the good deeds.” Avoid the trap of communicating only negative feedback to your child. Notice when your child does something good. Positive feedback encourages continued good behavior and boosts your child’s self-esteem.
Finally, “be kind and gentle.” Try to follow the same rules of conversation you would use when speaking with your neighbor, your boss, your coworker, your friend. Be kind. Be gentle. If you make a mistake, apologize. You’ll be rewarded with better communication between you and your child.