Parents and children don’t always seem to be functioning on quite the same level in terms of communication.
But are the things that you’re doing, often subconsciously, actually making your parenting journey harder?
We’re talking about body language.
When they’re small, children aren’t great communicators in the way that we tend to measure communication. This is mostly because they can’t talk fluently, or sometimes at all. However, looking at them as poor communicators just because they can’t talk is actually a flaw in the logic of most parents.
Kids are great communicators, but instead of using their voices, they’re using their bodies, and they’re reading yours as well.
Kids are hard-wired to be very good at reading facial expressions and body language from a young age. They use these skills to understand the world they’re living in, in the time before they have a grasp on language. This means that to kids, what you’re saying with your body is often going to override the message you’re sending with your mouth.
So if you’re telling your child to stop doing something, but you’ve got a little smile on your face because inside you think it’s funny, your child sees that and is less likely to stop. Making your body match your instructions can be a challenge at first, but this ‘mindful body language’ could really simplify parenting for you.
1. Looking from the outside.
In order to figure out whether you’re falling into the trap of failing to match your body language to your message, you need to step outside of yourself. We mean this as literally as possible. Use your partner, a friend, or even a camera, to record an interaction you have with your child that tends to result in conflict, such as putting toys away after playing. If a person is watching you, have them pay very close attention to what you’re doing with your body and your face when you talk. Are you smiling when you should be serious? Is your body poised to play more, even though you’re saying playtime is over?
This might sound like a pointless exercise, but you might be surprised how often your body isn’t matching the words that are coming out of your mouth, and the effect that can have on your message being understood.
2. Perfecting mindful body language
Getting a good handle on mindful body language is not as hard as it seems, but it does take a little practice to make sure you’re delivering the same message in all communication mediums. What makes it difficult is that, as adults, we aren’t as in tune with what we’re doing with our face and body, which can make it a challenge to ensure our entire being is on the same page.
You might find that what helps to chat to the person who observed you, and even use a mirror to practice statements that tend to result in conflict with your child. Go over them in front of the mirror, taking some time to think about the clear body language that matches your message. Think about facial expression, how you move your hands and even your stance. Remember that being firm, with a clearly serious (but not angry) tone is likely to work the best in terms of getting your message across.
3. No magic solution.
Of course we aren’t saying that mindful body language is going to turn you into some kind of child whisperer who is able to order children around like little minions. Kids are stubborn little beasts on occasion, and although we love them, we can’t guarantee they’re always going to listen to instructions.
However, if you can make sure that the instructions they’re getting are clear across the board, instead of one message coming in from your voice and another being told by your body, you will find that the levels of listening will definitely go up!