Martin Luther King, Jr. was an excellent orator. His “I Have a Dream” speech is one of  the most remembered and quoted speeches. 
Words move people. Words are powerful.
Remember how exciting it was when your toddler learned how to talk? Do you recall wishing for some quiet time when your preschooler spoke in a continuous stream of words? Most parents of elementary school students don’t miss the preschool monologue but would value some dialogue.  When we ask, “How was your day?” the typical child’s answer summarizes the entire day in one word: Fine, Okay, Boring. 
The one word response is a conversation stopper.
Effective communication in the home is the main bridge to building a lasting and loving relationship with our children.  So…how do we encourage positive communication? Implementing the following parenting tips will help accomplish this goal:
1.      Ask specific questions. “What was the best part of your day?” “What was the worst?” “What did you do in art?” This will frame the events of the day and make responding less overwhelming.
2.      Fill your child in on your day as well. This will train them in the art of conversation.
3.      If we want our children to talk we must be interested in what they have to say. Give eye contact, limit distractions, attend fully, and respond to what has been said. Implementing these four listening behaviors will encourage self worth in our children.
4.      35% of what we verbally communicate to our children is through our tone. Make certain the tone matches the message. Many times our children feel yelled at, not because of what we have said but because of how we said it.
5.      Avoid the use of sarcasm and subtle put-downs. We live in a sarcastic culture. Sarcasm and subtle put-downs leave a child with feelings of inadequacy. The commonly used phrases such as: “Hel…looo” and “What part of no don’t you understand?” need to be eliminated if we want our children to feel valued and capable. As parents, we can handle our frustration in a more constructive way. Replacing, “Hel..loooo” with  “Look at me.” Reiterating our answer or having the child repeat back the answer given is more effective than belittling the child with, “What part of no don’t you understand?” These responses accomplish the same goal but they are done in a way that is respectful to the child.
6.      Specifically reinforce desired behaviors and attitudes. “That was so great the way you encouraged your brother. No wonder he loves you so much.” Remember to focus on the positives to build good character in your child.
7.      Normalize your child’s experience. When he confides in you about being teased, recall a time when you were teased as a child. Providing empathy builds the parent child relationship and puts the difficulty in the proper perspective. Together come up with a constructive solution to the problem. This will train your child to handle unpleasant life circumstances.
Just a Martin Luther King, Jr. motivated and taught us to have a culture that respects all human beings, we desire to have a home that respects all family members. 
Strong societies and strong family relationships are built through the wise use of words and actions. 
Truth, respect, grace, justice, mercy,  love.
Good communication is fostered when our children feel heard, understood and appreciated.

A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold set in silver. 
Proverbs 25: 11

What do you do to model and foster good communication? 
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© LoriWildenberg. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Lori Wildenberg is a licensed parent and family educator, parent coach, and co-founder of 1Corinthians13 She has written 6 books including Messy Journey: How Grace and Truth Offer the Prodigal a Way Home; The Messy Life of Parenting: Powerful and Practical Ways to Strengthen Family Connections; and her most recent book, Messy Hope: Help Your Child Overcome Anxiety, Depression, or Suicidal Ideation. Contact Lori for your next event or for parent consulting or parent training courses. Lori can also be found mentoring over at the MOMS Together Group on Facebook.

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