You’re sitting at the dinner table together with your child, when you decide to ask him about his day today at school. A simple request that doesn’t require too difficult an answer, you would imagine. However, he only answers with short, vague, and often contradictory responses. To an outside observer, it would appear as if you asked him an uncomfortable and intrusive question. In the end, you can’t understand why he won’t give you a straight answer and he probably can’t understand why you are trying so hard to find out what he had for lunch today.
As long as there have been children, there have been frustrated parents trying their best to communicate with them. At times it can seem like a battle that cannot be won. However, the problem isn’t so much about trying to get him to understand you, it’s more about bridging the communication gap between him and you. Since your child isn’t likely to be searching the internet for “5 Steps to Bridging the Communication Gap between You & Your Parents,” you’ll have to take the first step.
Here are five things that you can do to start bridging the gap.
Five Steps to Bridging the Communication Gap
1. Don’t Constantly be on the Offensive
While your child may have less knowledge and experience than you, he’s still a human being with his own emotions. Just like we, as adults, wouldn’t want someone to accuse us of misdeeds, your child won’t appreciate being put on the defensive, either. Sometimes in our quest to be authoritative we go overboard into being accusative. Make sure that you look for information and not confessions.
2. Avoid Breaking Down Communication
You want your child to do something, perhaps cleaning his room or calling his grandmother once in a while. Be careful of the way you bring it up. Harping on it being his responsibility will only cause the child, especially a young child, to shut down and say whatever he thinks will make you stop bothering him (“OK, I’ll do it later…”). Instead, try to focus on the emotional aspect or how it may physically affect him. For example, “Grandma would love to hear from you, she keeps asking how you’ve been doing. She hasn’t heard from you in a long time. You should tell her about your team winning the game last week!”
3. Get to the Point, Don’t Lecture
This one is especially true with teenagers. Sometimes we try to get our point across when some wrong has been done. We’re not sure how to end the conversation and the conversation turns into a lecture. Think back to when you were young, didn’t it always seem like lectures kept going even after we got the point? The same goes for your children. Try to keep it short and to the point. There is nothing to be gained by a one-sided conversation that goes on for far too long.
4. Talk to Them as an Adult
Don’t try to talk to your children as if you are one of them. This is awkward for them and is so distracting that the message may not even get across. You are the adult, so talk like one.
5. Show Respect and Keep the Conversation Going Both Ways
This is probably the most important step. Your children can do some pretty bizarre things at times, as all young people do. This doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve respect. When you communicate with your child, make sure to listen as much as you speak, the same way you would for another adult. Avoid giving the old “Because I said so” response to try and end a conversation. Explain your reasons, even if he doesn’t agree with them.