“Your child will become what you are, so BE what you want them to BE”
One of the biggest “AHA’s” we have learned from our clients over the years is that how we communicate as adults starts with how we were communicated to as kids. Almost all of our clients who struggle daily in conversation, waver in their leadership or have difficulty building relationships have acknowledged that how their parents and teachers spoke to them has influenced how they show up and speak to others. Unfortunately, for most it is not serving them well.
As a parent, how often do you find yourself telling your child what to do? How often do you let your child be apart of a decision process? And, honestly, how interested are you in really listening to their barrage of endless questions? Or, their constant changing perspectives?
How we show up in our children’s lives today, regardless of their age, is modeling the behavior they will encompass when older. It molds how they make choices in their lives, it molds how they build their relationships, and it molds how they show up as leaders. All parents want the best for their kids, this we know to be true. So as parents, how often do you take the time to be your “best” for your kids as well? Like food, water, shelter, safety, and love are all fundamental to your child’s health and growth, so are the relationships we build with them through how we communicate. Everything we do in life revolves around communication: relationships, leadership, school, advertising, music, movies, television, technology, politics etc. Yet, from our experience, we have learned it is a craft that few place value on or spend the time to improve upon.
We like to think of communication skills and tools as nourishment. The more effective ones you have and use, the more nourished your life becomes, as do the lives of others. Your relationships will be stronger, your leadership more effective, and your “best” self more consistent.
Having a child be apart of the decision process or allowing them to problem solve models the parent believes their child is capable and trusts they have the ability to make decisions and solve problems – nourishing them now and as future leaders.
Asking a child what they want or need instead of telling them models that the parent wants to hear what the child has to say and wants to understand them. This message’s to the child that they hold value, parents want to learn from them, parents don’t always know best, and gives the child the courage to ask for what they want now and in the future. This nourishes them now and helps support how they show up in future relationships (including yours as they get older) and as leaders.
Being open and curious to hearing the perspective of a child and not blaming or judging them for their choices, models parents really want to see them, hear them and understand them. It shows there doesn’t always have to be a “wrong or right”, that regardless of what the parents think, they support their child and it gives the child courage to stand in their beliefs and choices they make. Again, this nourishes them now and supports how they show up in relationships, in leadership, and how they make their choices in the future.
How well did your parents see, hear and understand you and how has that affected your relationships?
How are you currently nourishing your children in your communication?
As parents, we are constantly providing and sifting through the best of how to nourish our kids. Communication skills are no different.
Here are 5 tips and tools to better “nourish” your child:
1. LISTEN! Take the time to really listen to your child. Whether it’s what they want to eat to what’s going on in their lives, taking the time now builds trust for later when kids don’t want to talk (normally because they felt their parents never really listened). Taking the time to really listen allows you to learn a LOT as a parent. It also models listening to your child, which can be really helpful when you want them to hear what you have to say.
2. UNPLUG! In order to really listen to your child, get off the phone, computer, stop texting, emailing, facebooking etc. When your child is talking to you, stop what you are doing and give them your full attention. We invite you to stay off the phone when driving your child to and from school. Listen to how their day was or ask what they think the day holds on the way there. It’s amazing how much you can learn in a short period of time of where they are at and what’s going on for them.
3. ASK QUESTIONS: Didn’t love a choice that was made, ask them what the reasons were for making that choice rather than criticizing or judging them or the choice. Want something done around the house, ask them when they feel they can get it done rather than telling them you want them to do it. A problem needs solving or a decision needs to be made, ask them what they would do, how they think it can be solved. No one likes to be told what to do, kids included. It’s definitely not a platform to build trust and respect! Pay attention to how often you TELL your child what to do, where to go or how to do it. When asking questions, we suggest using open questions that begin with who, what, where, when, and how. Why can carry judgment and we suggest using it sparingly, if at all.
4. TEST ASSUMPTIONS: We often think we know what’s best for our kids rather than what they want or what might be BEST for them. Testing our assumptions allows us to really understand what’s going on for them and their needs. It also messages to our kids that we really want to see, hear, and understand them. Instead of assuming you know the reason for something, ask them. Test your assumption. As a parent, I have learned that more often than not I am wrong with my assumptions. A tantrum can be avoided or diminished by simply asking your child what exactly they need, want, or is going on for them rather than telling them what you want for them, what you think they need or want based on an assumption you have. Again, using open questions will be the most effective.
5. LEARN FROM THEM: Building relationships is a two-way street. Really listening, asking questions, testing assumptions leads to an open, curious and collaborative relationship. How many of you have asked your child how you could be a better parent? If you really listen, seek to understand the perspective of what your child says, test the assumptions you may have around it and show up differently as your child has outlined, what could you learn? How would that nourish you and your child?
For other tips and tools please check out: 3 Levels of Listening, Strategies for a Challenging Conversation, Mary Harzell’s article on parenting, Julian Treasure’s Sound Health TED