Guest Blogger: Melanie Nichols

This March, we are sharing a special series of blog posts from Melanie Nichols. This series was originally posted in February 2021. You can find Melanie and her blog here. If you would like to submit to our blog, please email us.

Peggy O’Mara, an editor at Mothering magazine, said, “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.”  This is a powerful statement to consider! 

Positive relationships begin with positive two-way communication. These positive relationships, built on the foundation of good communication, are a critical piece in building a child’s self-concept. Children thrive on genuine encouragement and sincere praise. And when we, as loving parents and teachers, listen to them, it enables them to feel valued and loved. Using positive communication skills with our kids also provides them with an example of skills they will need to build successful relationships throughout their lives.

So what does positive two-way communication look like? One aspect of positive communication is active listening. Active listening involves putting away distractions, resisting the urge to interrupt or lecture, and focusing on what your child is trying to say. Body language is a big part of active listening. Impatient body language like sighing or foot tapping can discourage communication from children. Trying to listen while walking away or multitasking also suggests we are not focused on what is being said. On the other hand, a smile or a hug, eye contact at their level, and a gentle tone of voice encourages kids to share their thoughts and ideas. 

Along with active listening, positive communication involves how we talk to our children. Genuine encouragement and sincere praise are essential to use in our day-to-day lives. Look for opportunities to notice success or hard work. Focus on praising effort, not just results. When direction is needed, use positive statements that tell children what you want, not what you don’t want. For example, “Couches are for sitting.” instead of “Don’t jump on the couch.” When correction is needed – as we all know it will be! – we can separate the child from the behavior and correct the action, not the person. For example, “Skipping your homework was not a smart idea.” conveys a very different message than “You’re not a very smart kid for skipping your homework.”

To reiterate the quote from above – ”The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.”  With love and good communication skills, we can help shape that inner voice to positively influence the rest of their lives.

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