On a Heart to Heart Level with Your Child
By Sylvia Cochran – Christian Parenting – Better Parent-Child Communication.
While in math two negatives do indeed create a positive, in parenting two negatives frequently result in a discouraged, brow-beaten, sullen or angry child. So how does a parent who is merely human, after all communicate with a child in the midst of strife, struggle and discipline? In addition, who should own the responsibility for motivating a child to growth, change, obedience and willingness to try new things?
There are essentially two types of feedback:
- positive (confirming a course of action)
- negative (correcting a course of action
A child who gets plenty of the latter but not a lot of the former is likely not being parented with an eye on what he is doing right, but more frequently with an affirmation of what he is doing wrong.
Positive feedback itself can be broken down into explanatory praise, which briefly elaborates on the right choice or good decision made, and into diagnostic commendation. The latter explores the choice or decision and then extrapolates from there an encouraging attitude or recalls a similarly laudable situation.
From Feedback to Motivation in Education
In the book Instructional Message Design, authors Fleming and Levie suggest that the motivation to learn is, in large part, a courseware designer’s responsibility. This shifts the burden of responsibility for coming to the table with a strong motivation to learn from the shoulders of the student to the shoulders of the educator.
Making the Leap to Communication with a Child’s Heart
While the former may have read like a tome on how to communicate with a student, it is noteworthy that the Christian parent must remember that s/he is, essentially, a teacher. Deuteronomy 6:7 explains that opportunities for godly instructions abound at every turn. Too often, parents mistake instruction for correction. Avoid the trap of consistently chastising a child by communication from the heart and with the heart.
- It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it. Yelling, eye-rolling and lecturing have no place in parenting. Get your boy’s attention by quietly saying son, , instead of screaming be quiet!
- Don’t patronize (that means “talking down to”). Parents are tempted to condescend to a child when they confuse instructing with correcting. A child who hits another child does not need to be asked what it means to “be nice.” He most likely already knows the answer. A better question to ask is: Son, how can I help you express your anger better? From there, it is easier to get to the question of how to express regret and apologize to the other child.
- Don’t say it. Imagine that you could not say no, don’t, can’t and not. Is it fair to say that your communication with your child would be non-existent? Parents have become so busy that communication has been minimized to only take place in case of needed correction or direction, but rarely for praise and simple relationship-building. Work hard to turn “don’t messages” into “do messages.” For example, if you do not allow your child to hit a baseball inside the house, tell him to roll the ball in the house and hit it outside. This form of communication includes two positives rather than a negative.
Remember: Your Child is Non-negotiable
A very wise teacher once told her students (of whom I was one) that a person is non-negotiable. While an action may be wrong, a choice may bring bad consequences or a sum of all of the above will result in a bitter disappointment, there is one thing that your child needs more than a lecture or attempt at correction: unconditional love. When your little boy gets kicked out of daycare for spitting and being uncooperative, take a deep breath and remember that he might not yet be sufficiently mature to handle the structured setting.
When he gets bad reports from teachers or bad grades, it is easy to vent parental frustration with a lecture that is peppered with I told you so and didn’t I tell you statements. Instead, the first things that need to come out of your mouth while making eye contact has got to be son, I love you; always. Follow this with a big hug and the odds are good that the correction or instruction that must inevitably follow will be received (and given) on a heart level.
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