Kathy Schwartz

Kathy Schwartz

Do you talk to your children or with them?

It’s not a trick question. The question begs us to analyze the type of communication we have with our children.

Talking to our children is necessary. This form of communication is one way. It is used to direct, protect and instruct but not share. This type of communication is very important, and we become experts at it when our children are very young. No! Don’t climb that. Put that down. Pick that up. Go to your room. These are all commands that we use to protect our children from harm and danger. It makes our lives easier to navigate, and we often expect complete compliance. In fact if our child questions, complains or disobeys, we discipline them.

But this is not true communication. In fact, if used continually, it can stunt the natural progression of the ability to communicate with others. There is a concern that our children are not able to carry on a conversation past one or two sentences.

Talking with your child takes practice and thought. It is a two-way flow of ideas. Our children are experts at giving one-word answers. We need to demand more. Talking with your child helps him build his vocabulary, expand his ability to answer complex questions and gives him the tools to become an avid reader and writer. Such a valuable skill should be at the top of our list of gifts to give our child.

But how do we do this?

First, put down the phones and devices. Create a device-free zone where all devices are turned off and full attention is given to each other. I do realize that these devices have become another appendage and know it will be hard to do, but it is imperative we start talking with our children.

Start small. Begin with a 15-minute time block. You might be surprised how enjoyable it is and what wonderful things you find out about your child. It will take time to build the skills of expression. Be patient.

A great way to start is with a Talk Jar. On slips of paper, write questions that require more than a yes/no answer. Such as: What made you smile today? What great outfit did you see? What made you laugh? What lesson was learned at recess? What super power would have come in handy today and why? What would be a perfect vacation?

To get more ideas, Google “50 Questions To Ask Your Kids Instead of How Was Your Day?”

Have your child pull out a slip to answer. Listen carefully for statements you can expand. Do not judge or criticize. This is an exchange of ideas. Explore what he has told you. Now it is your turn to answer the question. Your child can create a jar of questions just for you.

Talking with each other creates understanding and awareness. Listening without judgment creates a trust. Giving your child the skills to communicate feelings and opinions are gifts that last a lifetime.

Kathy Schwartz is a retired elementary school teacher and serves as a parent education consultant. She writes a column for The Herald Bulletin, Anderson.

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