You potentially have no problem practicing good communication skills in your interactions with other adults. With your children it is all too easy to develop the bad habit of “preaching” in your zealous attempts to teach and guide them.
If you find yourself repeating the same refrains over and over and your children develop distasteful mannerisms, like rolling their eyes, eliciting deep, audible sighs, or shrugging their shoulders, that might be a pretty good indication that you have crossed the line from talking to preaching.
As a parent, can you be a teacher, without being a preacher? Preaching to your children can easily be avoided by doing less talking and more listening. Any effective communication between two individuals is part talking and part listening, with the emphasis on listening.
Here are some tips and guidelines for talking to your children without a preaching attitude:
Practice skillful communication
In a satisfying two-way conversation, both parties have the opportunity to talk and listen in order to go away from the encounter feeling respected and valued. You may have many life lessons you wish to impart to your children for their benefit, but you cannot do this by talking “at” them. Your goals are best accomplished by talking “with” them. A huge component of talking with another is listening to their point of view in order to know where they are “coming from.” It is crucial when communicating with your children to acknowledge their point of view.
Maintain a positive attitude
Children know when they are being treated with respect and they will reciprocate with a respectful attitude in return. If parents approach their children with a “Do as I say” attitude, more than likely communication between them will break down. In addition to using good listening skills in conversations with your children, ask questions and be attentive to the answers, so that your children might feel respected and valued. Creating an atmosphere of trust allows true communication to begin.
Role model desired behavior
While you want your children to adopt specific morals and values, you cannot “preach” them into this behavior. You can be a role model, displaying to your children the kind of person you wish them to become. Parents are the first and most pivotal teachers in their children’s lives, and much of what children learn is through example.
Your way may not be the only way. By listening to your children, asking their opinions and giving them choices, you will not only be treating them with respect, you will also be helping them to develop decision-making skills that will serve them well throughout their lives. Children who are simply preached to and “told” what to do, unfortunately sometimes make poor choices due to lack of practice.
Even if your children are not yet teens, it is never too early to equip yourself with the knowledge and wisdom of good communication skills between parent and child. The book, “How to Talk So Teens will Listen, and Listen So Teens will Talk” by Adele Faber gives excellent advice on how to communicate effectively with children of any age.
As a loving parent you can be encouraging, inspiring, supportive and respectful to your children in order to best guide them into becoming well-adjusted adults.
Be a teacher, not a preacher.