Communication is the core of the parent/child relationship. Communication 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 intend to teach a lesson or get a point across but our tone of voice and body language determine whether our child hears what we intend or an entirely different message.
“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 an annoyance and an inconvenience. Leave me alone.
Good communication requires knowing when to ask questions and when to make statements. There are times for each. Usually we pick exactly the wrong time.
Imagine your child is clearly upset, which may show up directly in her emotions or in acting out behavior. This is the time when we want to know what is going on and so we typically ask:
- What’s wrong?
- Why are you so angry?
- Why did you hit your sister?
Or we cannot avoid the temptation to get our teaching in there: