7 Secrets of a Child Whisperer
It almost appears as if a horse whisperer or a dog whisperer uses magic to relate and motivate. In raising children, the “magic” begins by becoming a student of your child.
1. Be available. No, really available. Just being in the same home with your child won’t encourage real communication if you’re constantly staring at your smartphone, computer screen or TV. Turn off the electronics and truly disengage with the outside world so that real conversations and communication with your child have a fighting chance.
2. Ask questions. Get beyond the easily deflected and trite “How was your day?” and ask something specific. Find out who your child played with at recess and what type of game they came up with. Ask your child’s opinion about which classmate had the best book report yesterday. These seemingly meaningless inquiries generate conversation that can and will meander into more meaningful ground—talk about friend relationships and how to handle them, engage in discussions about personal ethics and discerning right and wrong in a given situation.
3. Ask your question and hush. You know who you are: the mom who likes to talk more than she likes to listen. Force yourself to give your child the time he or she needs to decide what to share and how to express it. Resist the urge to fill up every little pause with commentary, or see it as an invitation to launch into a diatribe of your own. Just listen.
4. Read the non-verbal cues. If your child doesn’t initiate conversation and resists your attempts, you may have to keep a closer eye on the non-verbal types of expression. Does he appear anxious or irritable? Worried? Worn out? Read the road signs to find out specifically where you need to investigate further to see what’s going on.
5. Don’t miss the bigger opportunity by rushing to deal with the small one. For instance, when your child is describing his day at school, back off of your desire to insist that he start eating the piece of fruit you send in his lunchbox. He may be working his way up to telling you about something far more important (how he got in trouble for misbehaving in the cafeteria, a friend problem, frustration with a teacher or subject), but you derail the whole thing with yet another speech on banana consumption. Sure, you have the talk about healthy eating sometime, but maybe not right now.
6. Get close to them and show affection. By being physically close to your children, you’ll have more opportunities to get to know them and understand them. So, if your son is watching a game on TV, go sit by him, or at least in the same room. If your daughter is reading a magazine, grab something to read and join her. And show affection in your words and actions. Learn their love language and speak it often.
7. Don’t confuse gentleness, patience and love with a lack of boundaries. Even your quiet child needs boundaries and standards to live up to. Don’t be so sold-out to your desire to develop a relationship that you fail to discipline her for fear of disrupting that. To the contrary, learning how to communicate effectively with more withdrawn children is necessary so you can know how to effectively parent them, and that will always include occasional episodes of thoughtful discipline.
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