As parents, we all desire to have a good relationship with our children. One of the biggest parts of that is keeping the lines of communication open. When our kids feel free to communicate with us, it in turn keeps the connection to their heart strong. Yet, many times we unknowingly fall into bad habits in communicating that slowly begin to close that door.
Think about what is offensive to you as you share something with a friend or family member. Are you guilty of those same offenses when your kids talk to you about things? I think we are all guilty of these things occasionally, but when done repeatedly, it can cause damage in our relationships.
What are two things we do that can kill communication?
1. Interrupt often.
After a person interrupts me two or three times, I tend to just stop trying to say whatever it is I was saying. Frequent interruptions tend to make you feel that they don’t really care what you are saying, and to them what they have to say is MUCH more important. If we frequently interrupt our children when they are sharing something with us, they will get frustrated, and eventually quit talking to us.
2. Fail to give them our full attention, or fail to respond to what they are saying.
Wives, you can relate to this. We tell our husband something, and he responds with a grunt. We accuse him of not hearing us to which he replies, “I heard you.” Then he repeats what we said. He may have “heard” us, but what he heard didn’t really register! We want a response to what we have said that shows they really were listening.
It’s the same way with our kids. They need us to stop what we are doing, look at them, listen, and respond in a way that shows we caught what they were saying and what they meant. It means being aware of the emotion they are expressing through what they are sharing. (What happened hurt me, upset me, made me happy, etc.) Acknowledging that emotion makes them know you care not only about what they are saying, but what they are feeling.
When our kids come to us and share something with us, it’s hard not to go into “parent mode” and respond with our criticism, or with correction. This makes them unwilling to take the risk of telling us things they think we may disapprove of, or lecture them about.
It’s better to listen and show an interest, then THINK before responding. If they have shared a situation where their responses or actions were wrong, don’t correct at that time. Make a mental note that it is something to address with them at a later time, in a casual manner, with the goal of teaching based on what they shared with you.
7 RESPONSES THAT SHUT THE DOOR TO COMMUNICATION:
1. You shouldn’t have done/said that. (They already did, so this comes across as critical.)
2. WHY did you do that? (They don’t know why, and it puts them on the defensive.)
3. I told you so. (Bite your tongue if you have to, but DON’T ever say those words to your kids!)
4. What were you thinking?! (They probably WEREN’T thinking!)
5. I know exactly what you were thinking. (We may THINK we know what they were thinking, but need to give them the benefit of the doubt, and assume the best about them, rather than the worst.)
6. Yeah, right. (Pretty much the same as calling them a liar, and very insulting.)
7. That was stupid/dumb! (Would you tell things to someone if you thought they were going to tell you what you did was stupid? You probably already figured that out, but wanted to talk about the situation without getting put down about what you did or said.)
Perhaps you have been guilty of some of these responses. I know I have! That doesn’t mean you have ruined all chances of communication with your kids. We are human and will say things we shouldn’t. The key is to realize the mistake when it happens, and apologize to that child. Let them know you love them, and want to hear whatever it is they want to share with you.
If we don’t listen to them, they will go find someone else who will! I don’t know about you, but I want to be the one my kids come to with their news, needs, hurts, joys, etc.
A verse I pray daily:
Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips. Psalm 141:3