10 Tips to Improve Parent-Child Relationships

Parent-child relationships can be among the most difficult to navigate. And since they begin even prior to birth, the quality of these relationships heavily influence our ability to function in a healthy way.

Our role as parents are critical in terms of child development.

Given the importance they play in our lives, here are 10 tips to improve parental-child relationships:

1. Be Intentional with Eye Contact

Parents often overlook the significance of making eye contact with their children. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a child’s use of eye contact is an important indicator of normal development.

When a child can attend to their parents’ face, they receive more cues to understand the verbal message. A child is not just focusing on the face, but may also be paying attention to your lip movements. This may make the messages we give more ‘readable’ and perceivable.

2. Speak At The Child’s “Level”

By bending down and speaking at your child’s level, not only are you more approachable and less intimidating to your child, but you are making the message more audible and accessible. Educators are often encouraged to teach on the same vertical plane to promote and strengthen teacher-student communication.

3. Use An Open Communication Posture

When we hold our arms to the side, as opposed to crossed or wrapped around our bodies, we show our children that we are receptive to what they have to say. This might help encourage them to want to listen to us and communicate.

4. Use Positive Facial Expressions

Smiles, slightly upturned lips, and eyes widened in excitement can also affect how our children respond to our message. Once again, by imbuing a positive expression, we encourage our children to have positive responses. The Raising Children Network urges that the emotional experiences children have with others shapes their responses throughout life.

5. Practice Joint Attention

Paying attention, in conjunction with your child, to the subject at hand (such as getting down on the floor with your child to wipe a mess together, as opposed telling your child to clean up the mess) is critical to engaging your child to the topic at hand. When we look at and evaluate the topic of the conversation together with our children, we are involving them on a deeper level.

Tomasello and Farrar conducted a study on child vocabulary development and joint attention. They found that children who were taught words while doing joint attention tasks acquired a greater vocabulary. If your child is not attending with you, get closer or even point to the topic. Hopefully they will do the pointing next time.

6. Use Tone and Prosodic Patterns (Paralanguage) When Speaking to Children

It’s no secret that babies and young children prefer motherese (high pitched child-directed speech) over any other form of being spoken to. Macquarie University in Sydney, released research that motherese helps children identify where words begin and end. It can help them identify sounds, syllables, words, and finally sentences. Children are also more engaged in conversation with their parents when a high and varying rhythm of speech is used.

7. Use Gestures

Head nods, thumbs up, and hands up in excitement also positively impact interactions with children. We are nonverbally expressing acknowledgement and encouragement to our children.

8. Use Sounds (ah ha, uh uh)

Our use of vocal responses (non-words) may show our child that we are engaged in what they are saying. It can also encourage them because we are showing them that we are actively listening.

9. Close the Distance between parent and child

For young children, it’s important that the space between parent and child be relatively small (1-2 feet). As our children become adolescents it’s natural for the space to widen.

10. Be Aware of Locomotion

Locomotion is the amount of movement a parent should or should not have.

In order to show our child that we are engaged in talking to them, our movements should be limited to gestures and expressions. Walking and pacing is not only distracting for your child, but takes away from the closeness and connection you want to have with them to effectively communicate.

It is amazing how paying attention to our non-verbal communication and intentionally making a few minor tweaks can have such a huge impact on the way we connect with kids, and in turn how they interact with the world around them. Give it a shot – you might find yourself being pleasantly surprised.

The 2-Minute Action Plan for Fine Parents

Take a moment to inspect the last interaction with your child.

  • Did your child mind what you were saying?
  • In addition to your spoken words, what other non-verbal messages did you send your kids?
  • Did it have an effect on how your child responded to you?
  • On average, how much of your time do you spend each day displaying positive gestures, tone and facial expressions?
  • How often do you get down to your child’s level and connect before you try to correct?

The Ongoing Action Plan for Good Parenting

The first step to improving your non-verbal communication skills is getting better at recognizing the non-verbal cues we are sending with the actual verbal messages we wish to convey. Spend the next week paying particular attention to this aspect of communication with your kids.

Next, pick one of the above tips to implement intentionally in your communication with your kids. For instance, you may choose to intentionally school your face to be softer and more open when you talk to your kids.

Yes, this may feel a little unnatural at first, but the response you get will eventually make it well worth the effort!

Through our Pathwaves for Kids programs, we work with both parent and child to alleviate the struggles, and give your child the tools to take control of their thoughts, emotions, and reactions so they can function in a healthy way.

If you’d like to learn how you can support your child’s development through our methodology, we are here to help. Schedule a free 30-minute consultation today.

To help those who cannot afford the services of Pathwaves, consider donating to the Pathwaves Foundation. Please call (305) 858-6616 for more information.

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