Opinion I Communication is the key to connection3 min read . Updated: 13 Sep 2020, 10:20 AM IST
The way you talk to your child has a long-standing impact on their sense of self. So, whenever you are wondering about the right way to respond, follow the PANDA rule to connect with your children.
Are you proud of the way you talk to your child? I am often not. I may know the theory and logic, but sometimes that fraction of a second between trigger and reaction, with unforgiving life pressing down upon my nerves and the time, make me slide into impulsive responses that later need correction and conversations with my children.
The way you talk to your child has a long-standing impact on their sense of self. It sounds acceptable, and even obvious. But remembering this in our daily dealings with our children is a different story. If only there was an easy way to memorise this. This provided me with the impetus to devise the following pointers on how to communicate with kids. While these might not seem new to you, the idea is to be reminded of the best way to talk to them in this gentle, caring and non-aggressive way like, say, someone like a panda!
P: Pay attention. One of the biggest challenges that we face in a moment of haste is how to stop and pay attention to our children’s body language, words and expressions, instead of just their actions. It seems like too much to ask for. However, when ignored or missed, we lose the golden opportunity to understand, empathise, ask questions and guide them. Hit a pause button on everything happening around you and simply communicate to the kids that you care for and value them. Attention is the foundation name of communication. If you are too busy, it’s perfectly alright to fix a later time to hear them out. Honesty is very important. If you can’t put away that gadget, say so, ask for time to finish jobs at hand and then keep your word.
A: Acknowledge and accept. One of the most common mistakes we make is denying children their emotion. And that happens because we see them as kids and not as thinking and processing entities. “What is there to cry about?", “There is no reason to be sad" or “This is not a big deal at all" are all examples of denying the children their emotions. Denials, ridicule and threats break the flow of communication, and worse, lead to poor self-esteem. Instead, understand their struggles, worries and efforts. However, acceptance doesn’t mean agreeing with them. It just communicates that you hear them, understand them and their struggles.
N: No labels. This one worries me the most. A reminder to avoid all labels is absolutely necessary. As parents, we are often pushed to the limits of our patience. I totally get that, but establish some “no-go" zones. Avoid shaming, mocking and labelling kids as “you are lazy", “you have embarrassed me" or “don’t be such a baby". These can be particularly detrimental to communication. And positive labels such as “intelligent", “smart" or “best singer" can communicate to the children that these are your expectations and if they don’t meet them, they won’t be valued. Hence, I would suggest refraining from both positive and negative labels.
D: Dialogue starters. Have you noticed how often discussions turn into monologues? Very often, we jump into power-packed lectures, doling out of advice and problem solving strategies for our children. And that arrests a two-way dialogue right there. Prioritise a conversation, a dialogue and create an open space for open-ended questions and sharing. Words and phrases such as “I see" and “tell me more" encourages children to speak their minds. Sometimes children are not ready to talk about things. In such a scenario, it’s okay to let them know that you are around for whenever they are ready to talk. Insisting on information right then does not help. Be patient, they will connect.
A: Affirmative language. This is a lovely and productive strategy to get things done. My son recently told me about his friend, who thought his name was “Don’t XYZ", because he had to be reminded of what not to do so often, that “Don’t" had almost become a prefix to his name. Affirmative language is one that makes use of kind, tender, positive and rational phrases, which encourages children to think rationally and clearly on what “to do". It doesn’t make use of “stop/don’t/never" statements that tell them what not to do. Studies in neuro and psycho linguistics have demonstrated that positive words get registered by our brains better. This also sets the pace for effective communication and a positive vocabulary for their inner “self talk".
So, whenever you are wondering about the right way to respond, follow the PANDA to cuddle and connect with your children.