Communicating with your Child

Communicating with your Child

This article was featured in Mother&Child in English and Arabic

One of the things I’m most passionate about is helping parents communicate with their child. I realize it can be frustrating sometimes when you say things over and over again and your child ” just doesn’t listen!”. Your child is listening, his brain at this stage just works differently than yours. As adults we usually expect children to fit into our schedules, lives and world. Children are people too and sometimes we have to make changes in ourselves to accommodate our kids!

Some Things you Need to Know

  • You need to realize that children are different, even your own! Each child has a different personality and temperament which is apparent from birth. There is no “one rule fits all”.  As parents, you need to look at your child(ren) and adapt what works best with his character.
  • Your toddler or 3-year-old isn’t out to get you! It may seem that your child “just isn’t listening“, however you should know that at this age impulse control is still a developing skill and is very difficult for your child to control. That’s because the part in the brain (frontal lobes) necessary for controlling impulse is still developing and will not be well developed till age 7.
  • Take time to reflect on your parenting strategy; how is your current communication with your child? do you find your self saying “No” and yelling more than you would like?

How to Communicate Positively and Effectively

  • Get down to your child’s eye level. This makes it easier to get and maintain your child’s attention. Most likely when you’re shouting out something overhead your child will have completely missed that you’re talking to him.
  • Give your child a chance to explain and listen. If your child has misbehaved give him a chance to explain before jumping to conclusions. If your child doesn’t have the words to express himself you can supply him with short yes/no questions to understand what happened. Restate what you understood back to your child in short clear sentences to avoid misunderstanding. By taking his feelings seriously you’re showing him you care about his point of view and that his thoughts matter.
  • Avoid feelings of guilt or shame. At this age children are very sensitive of their actions. It may seem easy to shame your child into doing something “you make a mess every time you feed yourself, I’ll do it for you!” but this strategy may cause feelings of low self-esteem and inadequacy in your child which may last into adulthood. Instead, try to offer help when in a difficult situation. Asking your child if you can assist instead of immediately taking over shows you respect his independence and less conflict is likely to occur.
  • Express yourself and offer alternatives. Use sentences that express how you feel. “I can’t read the paper when you crumble the pages. You can get your story and read next to me”. This way you’re expressing yourself positively and sending a clear message to your child. At the same time you are offering an alternative which will redirect your child to an activity that is appropriate for the moment.
  • Be ready to compromise. Your child has his own thoughts and ideas and may not be willing to say “Yes” every time you suggest something. Allow your child to state alternatives. Discuss that with him if you feel they aren’t possible or safe . Ask him what he thinks of his proposal? Does it fit with your household rules? Is it possible? How? If not then propose another solution. It may seem like a lot for a 3 year old but your child may surprise you! It’s a win-win scenario. Your child will use these negotiation skills for a lifetime.
  • Involve your child. When new situations occur try involving your child in coming up with a new rule or solution. It’s more likely your child will understand the reason for the rule and stick to it if he is more involved. He will also be more willing to accept consequences for misbehavior. You are also helping create an independent and responsible adult.
  • Offer Choices. Your toddler is going through a stage of independence and may become stubborn when you propose something. Giving your child choices fosters that feeling of independence and enables your child to make decisions. “You can have your bath now or after dinner”, “Do you want your blue T-shirt or the red one?”. Try to limit choices to just two items at this stage to avoid confusion.

To Avoid Miscommunication & Misbehavior

  • Set few clear rules. The more things are off-limits the more likely your child will end up misbehaving. Saying “No” all the time takes away from it’s effectiveness when you really mean it. Try to select few clear rules that cover safety and will allow your child to explore at the same time. Involve your child and use negotiation and compromise when you encounter a new situation.
  • Provide an appropriate environment. Now that you know why your child sometimes has difficulty controlling his impulses make sure your setting is child friendly. Put away tempting objects and bring along a story or box of crayons when going out to give your child age appropriate alternatives.
  • Label Feelings. Children often act out or misbehave because they still can’t express themselves or label how they feel. Use daily opportunities of crying, laughing, screaming, etc to label how you and your child feel. Singing and reading about feelings is another great way.
  • Try to avoid power struggles. It may be easy now to just give an order instead of taking the time to communicate and negotiate, but remember your child will soon grow into a teenager then an adult and the bond you create now can last a life time. Investing in these early years will help you both in your child’s rebellious teenage years and hopefully create a bond of friendship between you.
I hope this post give you some positive and practical ways to effectively communicate with your children. Please feel free to join the discussion or drop me a line if you have any comments or questions.
Photo By Mariam El Mofty
Your Parenting Style Matters

Your Parenting Style Matters

This article was featured on SuperMama

Parents have different parenting styles, some are strict, others are easy going and some seem like they just let their kids run wild. Which of these ways is the “right” one? Well, to help you decide you have to think about what fits you as a parent, as a family and what fits your child’s temperament.

Baumrind established 3 basic parenting styles and studied what their effects on children could be.

The Authoritarian Parent
also called strict is grounded in traditional ways of child raising. Parents expect immediate obedience from children in almost all behavior. Physical punishment like spanking is used as a way to obtain obedience and cooperation from children instead of negotiation. Parents usually have many nonnegotiable rules and often respond to their child's question with "Because I said so!" 
  • Possible Effects of this style of parenting include children being less socially competent as parents generally tell the child what to do instead of thinking for herself. As a result, children are not encouraged to think critically but rather look to their parents for approval and solution. Miller‘s research has shown that this type of parenting doesn’t promote healthy feelings of self-worth since parents rely on intimidation and negative criticism as ways for gaining wanted behavior. Since physical punishment is an acceptable way of disciplining, this parenting style may also damage a child’s self-esteem and encourage violence as a way to solve problems. These effects will most likely stay with your child onto adulthood. Nonetheless, it’s worth mentioning that researchers have found that aspects of authoritarian style in some ethnic cultures may be associated with more positive child outcomes than Baumrind expects.
The Permissive Parent 
also called the indulgent or easy parent doesn't insist on rules and behavior. This parent doesn't see herself as an authority figure but rather as a resource for her child to learn about the world and gain a sense of independence. Children are left to their own experiences and their consequences to guide them on how to act in the future. Parents are accepting of their children, do not require socially appropriate behavior from their children and they tend to avoid or ignore obnoxious behavior
  • Possible effects are that children will not behave as socially appropriate. Baumrind also found that the least self-reliant, curios and self-controlled children are parented using this style. Children of easy parents may be more impulsive, and as teenagers more prone to engaging in misconduct and drug use.
The Neglectful Parent 
is also known as the uninvolved parent. The parents are low in warmth as well as in control, are usually not involved in their child's life and do not set limits for their children. Neglectful parenting can also refer to dismissing a child's emotions and opinions as well as being unsupportive of their child's basic needs (food, housing and toiletries). 
  • Possible effects include children seeming mature beyond their years in an attempt to provide for themselves and halt depending on their parents. Children may also become emotionally withdrawn from social situations and view that other aspect’s of their parents’ lives are more important than they are. These attachments problems may very well impact relationships in adulthood as well as disruptive and delinquent patterns in the teenage years.
The Authoritative Parent 
This approach combines the best of authoritarian and permissive approaches. It is a child centered approach that holds high expectations of the child's maturity. Being an authoritative parents means fostering the development of your child's independence but within reasonable limits. Parents participate in democratic verbal give and take as well as setting few clear rules. They are attentive of their child's needs, expect age-appropriate behavior and  aim at understanding their child's feelings and teach them how to regulate them. Authoritative parents help their children solve problems, they typically resort more to setting limits and teaching but may resort to punishment in which case they will explain their motives for punishment. This is the most recommended style of parenting by child-rearing experts.
  • Possible effects according to Baurmind are children who are self-reliant, self-controlled, content and curios about learning and exploring their environment. Because children know what is expected of them when parents set few clear rules, they feel secure and safe to explore their world within those limits. This approach also encourages success in school life, higher self-esteem, a healthy sense of independence and a positive work attitude since it promotes independence, negotiation and positive communication between parent and child. This method also seems to have the most positive results during the teenage years since it grants them freedom and a sense of independence and expression while maintaining clear family rules. It also fosters a respectful relationship between parent and child by having positive communication, negotiation and involvement in family rules and decision-making.
I hope this helps you to reflect on yourself and family and decide which parent you are and which one would you like to be             🙂

Read More On.. 

Listening to Your Child

Raising a Secure Child

Communicating with Your Child

Photo from Allaboutmotherhood