The Art of Communication: Raising kids who grow to be useful members of society

by Rahim Said

As parents, we often wonder how best to guide our children so they grow into responsible, empathetic and productive members of society.

Let me share with you one essential strategy that has helped me with my two children. That is effective communication.

A concept borrowed from the book “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk” has proven invaluable: “listen so your kids will talk to you and talk in a way kids will listen to you.” This advice is not just practical; it’s transformative. Here’s how you can apply it to your parenting journey.

1. Create a Safe Space for Dialogue:

Children need to feel secure and valued to open up about their thoughts and feelings. Ensure your home environment encourages openness. This means:

Listening without judgment: When your child shares something, avoid jumping to conclusions or immediately correcting them. Let them express themselves fully.

Being physically and emotionally available: Set aside dedicated time each day to engage with your child without distractions. This could be during dinner, bedtime, or even a car ride.

2. Practice Active Listening

Active listening goes beyond just hearing words; it’s about understanding the message behind them. Here are some tips:

Show empathy: Reflect back what your child is saying. For instance, if they say, “I had a bad day at school,” respond with, “It sounds like something upset you today. Do you want to talk about it?”

Ask open-ended questions: Encourage more than yes/no answers. Questions like, “What was the best part of your day?” can spark meaningful conversations.

3. Model Respectful Communication

Children learn by example. When you communicate respectfully, they are likely to mimic that behaviour.

Use positive language: Frame your instructions positively. Instead of saying, “Don’t make a mess,” try, “Let’s keep our space tidy.”

Acknowledge their feelings: Validate their emotions, even if you don’t fully understand them. This teaches them that their feelings are legitimate.

4. Set Clear Boundaries and Expectations

While it’s important to listen, children also need guidance. Clear boundaries help them understand what is expected of them and why.

Be consistent: Ensure that rules and expectations are consistent and understandable. Explain the reasons behind them to help your child see the bigger picture.

Offer choices: Whenever possible, give your child choices to help them feel in control. For example, “Would you like to do your homework before or after dinner?”

5. Encourage Problem-Solving and Independence

Teach your children how to solve problems on their own. This builds resilience and critical thinking.

Guide, don’t dictate: When they face a challenge, ask guiding questions like, “What do you think you can do about this?” instead of immediately offering solutions.

Celebrate efforts, not just outcomes: Praise their effort and process, not just the result. This fosters a growth mindset.

6. Be Patient and Compassionate

Parenting is a long-term investment. Patience and compassion are key.

Allow for mistakes: Understand that mistakes are part of learning. Use them as teaching moments rather than occasions for punishment.

Stay calm: Maintain your composure, especially during conflicts. A calm response helps de-escalate situations and sets a tone for peaceful resolution.

By listening so your kids will talk to you and talking in a way your kids will listen to you, you lay the foundation for strong, trusting relationships.

This not only helps in raising well-rounded individuals but also equips them with the communication skills necessary for navigating the complexities of society.

Remember, the art of communication starts at home, and as parents, you have the unique privilege of being the first and most influential teachers in your children’s lives.

Dr. Rahim Said is a human behaviourist and regular contributor on digital media platforms. He is a professional management consultant, a corporate trainer and an executive coach specialising in coaching of senior executives and individual entrepreneurs with the purpose of modifying their behaviour in the pursuit of their cherished missions. (The views expressed by our columnist are entirely his own)