It is widely acknowledged that good communication skills help us to solve problems successfully and maintain good interpersonal relationships.
Communication with others begins at birth, through verbal and non-verbal output. I remember my baby girl used to stick her finger in her ear to tell us she was tired and due a nap. Our communication skills continue to develop through childhood and into adulthood, and as a mother, I want to make sure my child is equipped to express her needs, wants and feelings clearly, appropriately, and respectfully.
As an only child, her frame of reference has not including sibling banter, and she’s had to pit herself against two fairly outspoken parents. Knowing this, I took the time to get down to her level when talking to her, I would sit her on my lap when I was correcting her, or discussing her behaviour, and try to make it as safe as I could to say what she needed to say. None of this came easy. As a full-time employee that commuted long hours, my nerves and patience were pretty stretched when I had to tackle these issues. Yeah, I yelled a few times (and felt wretched afterwards, as all parents do!). But for the most part, I truly attempt to keep our chats calm and open – I’m playing the long game and I need to know she’ll still be talking to me when she’s a teenager!
I usually let her know how I’m feeling about a situation, and then let her respond. Something like,”When you did this, it made me feel/made me wonder…” and she has a chance to explain why she did or said something. Sometimes she’ll say,”I’m going to tell you something, but you can’t act on it”. I respect that boundary (unless someone is in danger, when all bets are off).
Recently, we instituted a journal (we got the idea from here). We write notes back and forth to each other. Sometimes, if she’s too mad to talk, she’ll write, and it calms her down. She leaves it by my bedside, and then I’ll read and respond. It works for us. It teaches her that communication is a two-way street and you have to listen to be heard.
We’ve stuck to a few simple rules to help us:
- Think before you speak
- Don’t shout or speak in anger
- Speak clearly
- Tell the other person how you feel – use “I feel” instead of “You did/said…”
- Say all you want to say, but take turns
- Listen carefully
- Hug it out!
And of course, we make time for dates, where we hang out, drink tea & eat cake. Mmmmm – we ❤ cake!