Talking to your child

I have many parents who come to me to coach their child for low self-confidence, fears, negative thinking, bad behaviour, rudeness, tantrums and lack of motivation. On most occasions it is the communication by the parents that is faulty. The way you communicate with your child has two impacts — one of encouraging and bringing out the best in him, the other of discouraging and killing his spirit. With coaching the child can get back on track but parents need to fine tune their communication.

Behaviour is not the “territory” or the complete person. “Territory” is a neuro linguistic programming (NLP) concept that means behaviour of a person is only a part of his or her entire being and one must try and focus on the complete person. If the child is not behaving in an appropriate manner over a prolonged period of time, it is important for the parent to look inward and analyse what can be corrected.

The first and easiest thing to check is the manner of communication. Children are going to be children. There are going to be good days and not-so-good with them. But, as parents, you need to focus on the good in your child.

Look at what he or she does and says as an indicator to how he thinks and feels. If you listen to your child with the singular purpose of understanding him or her, that one change in your communication will have a huge impact on how your child will respond to you. Listening is the most important skill in communication. Your child will gain confidence and express freely. All of us — children and adults — want to be understood and be heard without being judged. Remember: you are teaching your child this very important skill by being his role model.

Take the example of a child that constantly interrupts the parent while they speak to someone. If you try and reason his behaviour you might come up with various — he is excited to tell you something; he is too young to know that interrupting is bad manners; he is not feeling heard; he knows that while you are busy his demands met easily.

So if you put your “understanding my child” hat on, your response should vary. Instead of a curt — “you are being rude. Please wait for me to finish” — you might try “I see that you are very excited to talk to me. I will listen to you in a minute.” This simple response will help your child know that you understand his feeling of excitement and you will fulfil his needs. Parenting is not as daunting as it seems, it is about fine tuning your skills to have the most positive impact on your child, in an environment that is conducive to his emotional, mental, physical and spiritual growth.

Next time, we will discuss how to talk to your teen.

This is an interactive column on parenting skills and child behaviour. If you have a query, write to

— Sunaina Vohra is a certified Youth and Family Life Coach at Athena Life Coaching in Dubai. For more information log on to or call (+971) 56-1399033.