Communicating with children is definitely a labor of love and it can be a big challenge. One reason for this is that it takes 25 years to grow a human brain! A child doesn’t have all their brain parts until age 4 (though they have the blue prints) and it still takes another 21 years for it all to work!
As a result, our children do not process language and data in the same way we do. Adults like to use reason and logic on children under 12 to get them to comply. Parents go into great detail giving their children all sorts of reasons and logic why they need to eat, dress a certain way, go to bed, study etc. And all this talking never seems to work. Well, part of the reason it doesn’t work, is a child’s ability to comprehend logic and reason doesn’t happen until age 12!
A child’s comprehension, doesn’t match their ability to speak. Comprehension lags behind speaking. Next time you give your child a long series of commands or instructions, ask them to tell you what they understood. Often they’ll say “I don’t know” or they’ll give you a wrong answer. Don’t be fooled by a sophisticated talker, it doesn’t mean they understand you.
Ineffective communication with children in which the parent emphasizes language through anger, very critical and derogatory words as well as physical punishment (canning) sends the child into a fearful state. Getting your child to understand how bad their behavior is affecting you is not going to work and can be damaging to your child and your relationship with them.
When a child is a fearful state they cannot learn or understand making more likely they’ll do the offending behavior. A fearful child will result in the child not doing what they parent wants and this will often lead the parent to use more ineffective and harsh forms of communication and punishment. Long-term, it may lead to a child’s lower self-esteem and poorer relationship with the parent.
To be effective in communicating with your child do the following:
- Use a gentle start-up
- Get down at eye level with your child and make sure you have their attention
- State what you want in very short sentences.
- State what you WANT from your child, do not state what you don’t want
- At the end of your directions, ask your child what they heard you say. If they got it wrong, re-state it in an easier way for them to comprehend.
- Catch your child being good and let them know.
- Read a clinically based parenting book to learn how to become more effective at parenting. A great one is “Love and Logic for Toddlers.” Sold in Singapore and online. They have a website and facebook page too!
Tammy M. Fontana, MS, NCC, CTRT
All in the Family Counselling