Communication is the core of the parent/child relationship. It makes or breaks connection. It’s not so much what we say but how we say it that conveys meaning to our children. We may want to get a point across, but tone of voice and body language determine whether the child hears what is intended or a different message entirely.
“What is it you want?” can be said with genuine curiosity and encouragement or with criticism and judgment. One reading tells the child, What you want is important to me. A different reading says, You are annoying. Leave me alone.
Good communication requires knowing when to ask questions and when to make statements. There are times for each. Usually we get it wrong.
Your child is upset. You know this because of her emotions or behavior. You want to know why, so you ask:
- What’s wrong?
- Why are you so upset?
Or you can’t avoid the temptation to teach if you know what happened:
- When are you going to learn to just walk away?
- Why do you keep provoking him?
When we want children to tell us what’s going on, we ask questions—the last thing kids want to hear, especially because they often don’t know. Questions at this stage can block communication, especially when children are not sure how their answers will be received.