There's no one-size-fits-all answer to the best ways to communicate with your child. But Dr. Fran Walfish — Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist, author of The Self-Aware Parent, and costar on We TV's Sex Box — offers expert insight on the ways to communicate more effectively.
No matter how nonjudgmental and open we think we are, we all grow up with negative or critical messages that shape us. We all on some level categorize others in our minds. Many of us have strong uncomplimentary opinions, and we sometimes, intentionally or not, communicate these thoughts and ideas to others. These messages, just like parenting styles, get handed down generation after generation, so if you are a negative or critical parent, know that your style and your messages will likely carry through to your grandchildren and beyond. Even the most kind, patient, and loving parent slips into a negative statement once in a while. Controlling negativity in your communication is for the parent whose automatic style is critical, angry, overly strict, or rigid. It is the repetition of experience that imprints a child's self-esteem and developing sense of who they are.
10 Tips For Maintaining Positive Communication
- Accept the fact that all of us grow up with messages of bias. Know where biases and judgments exist within you. Own it. Then you can decide whether you want to alter those beliefs.
- Take an honest look inside and notice if your anxiety rises when things are not in place, organized, or delivered on schedule. If you react by controlling, you may be a perfectionist. Practice allowing your anxiety to rise, and notice how much you can tolerate before taking control. Try raising the ceiling on your maximum tolerance level. Your goal is to be able to bear the anxiety that comes with imperfection.
- Do not ever compare or contrast your child to others. Measure your child by his or her own standards.
- Stay open-minded and flexible. Remember that rigidity is not healthy.
- Remind yourself that there is always more than one way to view and deal with a situation.
- If you are engaged in a power struggle with your child, let go of the arm wrestle. She can only keep tugging if there is someone on the other end pulling in the opposite direction.
- Rules and boundaries must be stated with clarity, not anger. Be clear and concise, yet kind and empathic in your delivery.
- Know that for you, a critical person, life really is a little harder. Your expectations for yourself are greater than most. And the same is true for your child. Feel empathy for yourself so that you can feel empathy for your child.
- Stay open to listening to and hearing your son or daughter's feelings. You don't have to agree with your child's demands. But everyone wants to be heard, validated, and understood. So give that courtesy to your child.
- The strongest motivator for change is pain. Don't wait for something terrible to happen. Make improving your parent/child relationship and lifelong happiness of your child your motivation.