Today’s children are alert, wise, technologically savvy from a very early age, and often treated like little adults — and from infancy they are demanding us to pay attention to how we communicate with them.
I call them “truth busters,” because I believe they’ve been piercing holes in our existing belief systems, knocking parents out of their comfort zones and pushing many educators up against the fragile wall of our educational systems.
These children seem to know from birth who they are and why they’re here. They are highly evolved, sensitive, smart and attractive, often large for their age, with mature-looking faces and big, penetrating eyes that appear to look through you to your soul. These kids see through lies and will let you know. They don’t easily accept what they’re told if it doesn’t feel right to them. The children have a special wisdom about them, their own unique brilliance. Strong-willed, stubborn and determined, when asked to sit down and be quiet, they often refuse.
Our little “truth busters” demand to know “Why?” and “Why not?” wherever they are — at home, school, in restaurants and in supermarket checkout lines. “Because I said so” simply doesn’t work with them.
Communicating is challenging today because we also compete with super heroes, video games, iPads, and Instagram for children’s attention. We’re running them on tight, stressful schedules without much time to relax, play or just be.
Parents need to make time for authentic communication where someone speaks and someone listens and everyone feels heard. Families used to sit down together for dinner and talk to each other. But with varying schedules, this does not happen enough today.
After a conversation on communication, a group of 7-9 year olds expressed the following about how they wish their parents would talk to them:
- Slow down so we can understand you.
- Look at us when you’re talking.
- Don’t interrupt or change the subject.
- Take turns speaking and listening.
- Don’t get mad if I say “What?”
- Tell the truth.
- Ask me questions so I know you’re listening.
- Don’t look at your phone while we’re talking.
- Be kind and respectful.
- Use a good talking voice – not too loud or soft.
Here are five recommendations for communicating authentically with your children:
- Gift your time. Find at least 15-30 minutes a day to slow your pace, stay focused and devote uninterrupted time to your children. Let them direct the activity; you be the “assistant.” Your focused attention for even 15 minutes will mean more than any toy you could buy.
- Turn off your electronics, put away the tablets and communicate authentically with your children daily. Be genuine. “Tell me one great thing and one not-so-great thing that happened today” works better than “What did you do today?” or “How was your day?” Be specific so you don’t get a 1-word answer like “nothing” or “fine.”
- Listen authentically. Children watch body language and know instinctively when adults pretend to listen. They notice when we peek at our watches or texts or look away.
- Ask questions. “How do you feel about that?” or “What do you think would be a good solution?” works better than offering your opinion. Children want to trust parents to help them figure out problems, not just give advice.
- Involve children in creating a healthy lifestyle. Talk about eating “smart brain foods” instead of “sugary snacks.” Help them learn to take deep breaths when feeling stressed.
When we communicate consciously and with presence, we form more authentic relationships with our children, and support them in becoming confident and empowered human beings.