As homeschooling parents, we understand the importance of clear communication. If our children don’t get what we’re trying to teach them in school and life, they’ll struggle academically, socially, and spiritually. We also understand that we have more opportunities than others to develop good communication with our children. We have them home with us all day. Each day we have hundreds of opportunities to create healthy communication habits for ourselves and for them. We all have room for improvement in our communication habits, so let’s look at some tips to help us become better communicators.
First, know what you want to say. You’ve heard the old adage, “Say what you mean and mean what you say.” That’s a good rule to follow! Be as clear as you can when telling your children what you expect them to do. For example, there’s a big difference between saying “finish your math” and saying “do problems 1 through 10 on page 30.”
If we don’t tell our children exactly what we expect from them, they’re likely to get confused and frustrated. Also, we can’t always assume that our children understood or even heard all of our instructions. Distractions—other children, pets, a large house, or guests—can override what you’re trying to communicate. A good way to make sure they understand is to ask them to repeat what you just told them.
Be mindful of where you are and what’s going on around you. Background noises in the room you’re in, or another room, can make it much harder for your children to hear and understand what you say, or vice versa. As often as possible, try to be in the same room as your children when you’re talking. Of course, that goes without saying when you’re teaching, but it’s a good practice to have all the time. It can be fun to holler down the hallway to talk, but not at the expense of clear communication.
We’re surrounded by things that suck up our attention and block out the rest of the world. Buzzing phones and blaring TVs, crying children, dishwashers, washing machines—there are so many noises surrounding us at all times. Those noises can be the death of clear communication. If you want to have a meaningful conversation with your children, make sure you have their full attention. If they’re distracted while you’re talking to them, chances are, they won’t remember what you say.
On the flip side, make sure your children have your full attention when they want to talk to you. Texting, talking on the phone, scrolling through Facebook or checking email can wait when your children are trying to talk with you. They need to know you care enough to stop, look them in the eye, and listen. If you have to finish a text or an email before you can give your full attention, use a signal to let them know that you know they want to speak and that you’ll stop and listen to them as soon as you can.
Watch Your Tone
How we say something is just as important as what we say. It can be hard to teach children how to control their tones, especially if we struggle to do the same ourselves. Our tone of voice can communicate something entirely different from our words, and it certainly affects the way our children respond to us and how we respond to them. Children are excellent at picking up on attitudes and thoughts we have hidden in our tone. As impatient or frustrated as you might be with a situation or a certain kind of behavior, remember that letting that frustration into your tone will change the meaning of everything you say. A reminder to finish homework can come across as a punishment or an expression of disappointment—even if you didn’t mean either.
Remember the exhortation in Colossians 3:21. According to the Amplified Bible’s translation, it says, “Do not provoke or irritate or exasperate your children . . . so they will not lose heart and become discouraged or unmotivated [with their spirits broken.]” One unkind remark can undo hours of loving instruction. One snappy retort can erect a wall of resentment between you and your child. We must rely on the power of God to help us. Only He can master our tongues (and voices) so the law of kindness can reign in them. And when we do speak in a harsh tone of voice, we need to make it right as soon as possible. Immediately confess it to the Lord and ask your child to forgive you. Yes, it’s humbling (as I can well testify!), but if we are to maintain a right relationship with our children, it’s imperative. The best way to show our children how to control their tongue is to become masters of our own.
Communication in Body Language
If you have a teenager, you’re more than aware of how frustrating it is when your children roll their eyes or sigh at everything you say. It’s like they’re shouting “I don’t care what you say” or “you can’t tell me what to do.” In addition to our tones, what we’re saying, and our environment, we also need to be mindful of what we’re communicating through facial expressions, posture, and gestures. And we need to help our children understand what their bodies communicate, too.
How we use our bodies while we’re talking can influence our conversations in either a positive or negative way. For example, try not to cross your arms, roll your eyes, sigh, shake your head, or tap your foot during a discussion; all of these gestures can undermine healthy communication. By using positive gestures, like nodding or leaning forward, we can encourage a healthy conversation despite what either party might be feeling.
The Main Goal for Communication
Remember the purpose of communication: to glorify God by building others up with our words. God has given us the gift of language so we can encourage, motivate, and inspire others toward greater Christlikeness. He has also given us His own Word, Holy Spirit, and power to guide our communication. A wonderful scripture to pray each day is Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.”
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Jennifer is a pastor’s wife and mom of two young girls and loves homeschooling them. During her own twelve years of being homeschooled, Jennifer developed a passion for reading and writing. She earned a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and relishes writing during her free time.