It's Important to Recognise that Communication is a Two-way Thing

Posted by martin.parnell |

On Sunday afternoon, as I was running along the pathways, near my home, something suddenly struck me. Many of the adults I saw were looking at their phones and most of them were accompanied by children. It’s not something I’d been truly conscious before. But, then I began to notice other instances, where parents were with children and yet, rather than spending the time communicating with them, they were engrossed with their phones or ipads. 

For instance, I saw one lady, in Tim Horton’ s whose little girl, about 5 years old, was saying that she  needed to go to the washroom, but it took several times of being told before that mother took any notice. Another time, on the pathway, there was a little boy, pointing to a deer, on the other side of the river, he must have said “Daddy, look” about 9 times, before giving up. 

What is happening in our society that parents are more interested in a mobile device than talking to their own child? A friend of mine, who is an elementary school teacher tells me that she has seen a marked increase in children’s attention – seeking behaviour and the issues it causes and another friend who works with pre-schoolers said that she has noticed a decline in the general level of communication skills amongst young children and there may be a link between these issues and the way some modern parents are failing to communicate with their children. 

According to the Parenting and Child Health website: 

“The word 'communication' is used to talk about how people share information. Often when people think about communication, they think about talking and listening. However, people also send information by:

  • the tone of their voice
  • the look on their face (facial expression)
  • the way they use their hands (gestures)
  • the way they move and hold their body (body language).

However, it states that communication problems can be caused when there is:

  • lack of experience or stimulation
  • limited opportunities to talk with others. 

It goes on to list some of the difficulties that children may have when they have not grasped communication skills: 

  • recognising the emotions or intentions of others
  • speech sounds (saying the words clearly or correctly)
  • speaking fluently (without hesitating too much or stuttering)
  • using words and grammar (rules about word order and use)
  • putting words together to let others know what they think or want
  • understanding what others say.

An article published on the Better Health Channel stresses the importance of communicating with young children:

“Parenting is all about communicating with your child. Positive two-way communication is essential to building your child’s self-esteem. While children thrive with words of encouragement and praise, listening to your child boosts their self-esteem and enables them to feel worthy and loved. If you set up clear and open communication patterns with your child in their early years, you are setting up good practices for the future. A child’s ability to manage stress, feel confident and motivate themselves in later life has a lot to do with their early childhood experiences. A person’s ‘self-concept’ is their sense of who they are and how they feel about their place in their family and community. This begins to develop between the ages of two and six years. “

If you want your child to be a good listener, make sure you’re a good role model. Take the time to listen to them. Busy, distracted parents tend to tune out a chattering child, which is understandable from time to time. If you constantly ignore your child, however, you send the message that listening isn’t important and that what your child has to say isn’t important to you. 

Some suggestions include:

  • Pay attention to what your child is saying whenever you can.
  • Make sure to allocate some time every day to simply sit and listen to your child if you have a busy schedule.
  • Encourage your child’s ideas and opinions. Positive communication is a two-way street in which both parties take turns listening and talking.

Maybe it’s time for some parents to ask themselves what is really more important, reading that latest text or email or communicating with their child?  I’m sure many of them honestly don’t realize how much time they spend on their device. But, what some need to realize is that all the time that they are not communicating effectively with their children can affect them at all ages, but especially in the development of their communication skills and possibly their behaviour.

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