How To Foster An Environment For Successful Communications With Your Child
By Dr. Charles Sophy
As parents, we strive to address all of the questions asked by
our children. If we don't have the answer, or don't like the
question, we would never think of ignoring the child. We do not
accept improper communication as acceptable behavior. Most
parents, however, are quick to excuse or overlook the behavior
of their child when he / she reacts the same way and are often
left wondering when the lines of communication broke.
Picture this: Five year-old Jason is
riding home from school with his father. Jay's favorite CD,
the Shrek soundtrack, is in the player and while he usually
sings along, today he doesn't appear to be paying attention to
it. Two blocks away from their house, they pass the softball
field where a game is in progress. Dad announces "Jay, when we
get home, you're going to need to clean-up all the toys on the
floor in your room. We wouldn't want anyone to fall." Jay
doesn't respond. Dad knows that cleaning up toys is one of
Jay's least favorite activities so he waits a few moments and
tries again. Still no response.
In the pause between tracks on the Shrek CD, Dad
tries to get Jay's attention again by simply speaking louder,
keeping his tone warm and pleasant. And again, his comment is
met with no acknowledgement from his child. Turning on to their
street, Dad loses his patience and raises his voice, barking a
command that Jay is to march straight to his room and clean up
his toys "for the fourth time!" Jolted to action, Jay rushes
out of the car when they return home and heads straight to his
room, not emerging until dinner time.
The interaction between Jay and his father is
the result of a non-verbal agreement between them. Reinforced by
previous similar exchanges, Jay's parents have fostered an
environment where they have tolerated his lack of response to
their directions, and he has learned that his lack of
communication is acceptable behavior.
Children are by nature easily distracted and not
always responsive to their environment. It is the responsibility
of the parent to emphasize positive patterns of communication
and ensure the child learns that ignoring communication is not
acceptable. Early prevention, in the form of educating your
child about the proper forms of communication, is the key to
ensuring that the non-verbal agreement does not take hold.
If your child has already grown accustomed to
this style of communication, here are some essentials to assist
you in addressing the situation:
Talk: To your child, and explain to them
in age-appropriate terms how they are communicating and why it
Show: Your child how to communicate
effectively, even when the questions are hard. Role-play a
conversation to show them a more effective way to communicate.
Practice: Be sure you are aware of
yourself and the way in which you communicate to others.
Children model adult behaviors. Be sure you are not guilty of
poor patterns of communication with your spouse or parenting
Be Consistent: Be constant in the manner
in which you communicate with you child. Send the same message
with each and every interaction. Allow your child to see that
you will call their attention to those times that the unwanted
behavior rears its ugly head.
Remember: Kids will be kids and they will
sometimes be distractive and non-communicative. You are the
expert in knowing your child's behavior and can best judge the
improvement in their communications. The best way to ensure
healthy communication patterns is to model positive
Dr. Charles Sophy currently serves as Medical Director for the Los Angeles
County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), which is responsible
for the health, safety and welfare of nearly 40,000 foster children. He also has
a private psychiatry practice in Beverly Hills, California. Dr. Sophy has
lectured extensively and is an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the
University of California Los Angeles Neuro-Psychiatric Institute. His lectures
and teachings are consistently ranked as among the best by those in attendance.
Dr. Charles Sophy, author of the "Keep ‘Em Off My Couch" blog, provides real
simple answers for solving life's biggest problems. He specializes in improving
the mental health of children. To contact Dr. Sophy, visit his blog at http://drsophy.com