Our good friend Crista Nezhni sent us another guest article about the importance of proper communication skills. Check it out and let us know what you think! Also, check out Crista’s other guest post about pets for kids.
Communication Skills: The Importance of Assertive Communication
Most of us understand the importance of utilizing assertive communication skills in everyday relationships–at least with those our own age. However, many of us find it difficult to take the time to stop to think before impulsively blurting out hurtful words in a spiteful tone. When it comes to communicating with children, one must treat them with the same sort of respect that we would toward anyone else.
Often individuals confuse three different styles of communication for one another: Assertive, passive, and aggressive. An assertive style can aid us in coming to a negotiation with a partner, friend, or a child. It also allows us to unburden our emotions regarding a situation, which we might otherwise repress. This style helps the other person feel as though they are not being spoken to, but that they have a voice in the matter.
Communication styles tend to be learned, whether it is from parents, teachers, religious figures, or coaches. Children will often adopt a combination of communication skills. However, the main form will most likely come from what he or she has observed in his or her familial unit.
Passive vs. Aggressive Communication
Passive communicators tend to ignore their own needs, thereby allowing others to make important decisions for them. If you are a passive communicator with your child, you probably do not utilize a strict disciplinary style with him or her; therefore, the child may become the household decision maker.
On the other extreme, there are aggressive communicators. Individuals who adopt aggressive communication skills are not necessarily verbally or physically abusive, but they might be perceived as being so. People often label these communicators as “The Controller.” This could lead your child to withdraw and not express his or her own desires and feelings. Without feeling comfortable communicating with a parent, teacher or authority figure, your child may also have difficulty understanding the reasoning behind another person’s decisions, rules, and demands.
Finding a good middle ground regarding both communication style and discipline are very important to a child’s development and well-being. Learning how to speak assertively is an important step in doing so. Assertive communication skills involve “I” statements, such as “I want,” “I need,” and “I feel.” Keep in mind that communication isn’t just about speaking, but also about listening. One must not dominate the conversation. In order for this style to truly work, you must also be willing to hear the other person out.
How to Practice Assertive Communication Skills
If your child comes to you asking to go to a party that you feel strongly is a bad idea, express it with “I” statements. Make sure to explain your situation without placing blame. Try not to include your child in the reasoning why, but instead make it more of a generalization. Many of us shut down when we hear the word “you;” it’s like you are scolding the family dog for accidentally peeing on the rug. Try to think back to when you were a child and how you would have justified why going to this party was a good idea. Avoid verbiage that your child may view as dismissive or negative, such as “but” or “however.” Let your child continue to have an opinion (like a say so) in the matter he or she has brought up to you. e.g. If you are not allowing your child to go to the party, make sure you validate your child’s opinion and that your concerns are understood..
Allow your child to respond to you with what he or she wants, feels, and needs; give yourself permission to do the same. Assertive communication isn’t just a one-way street. Sometimes, one may not be able to reach a compromise with their child. If this is the case, a consequence for breaking pre-set rules may be deemed necessary. It is important to follow through with the original plan of action. To have successful outcomes, one must remember it’s not simply about words, but also about conjoining actions. This way your child understands that although there is open communication, there are still consequences if rules are broken.
We hope you learned something from this guest post that you can apply to your daily life. For more educational resources about communicating with children, check out some of our products that deal with conflict resolution and sibling rivalry. Thanks for reading!