Can you communicate Well with your children?
Dr. Leow Chee Seng
Good communication is an important parenting skill. This article provides useful information and techniques for parents on how to communicate effectively with their children. Parenting can be more enjoyable when positive parent – child relationship is established. Whether you are parenting a toddler or a teenager, good communication is the key to building self-esteem as well a mutual respect.
The period from birth to adolescence contains dramatic developments in cognitive functioning and social maturation. Children develop abilities to go beyond perceptual appearance to think more abstractly about their environment, acquire information processing skills to more readily organize and use what they learn about their environment.
Children at two to seven year old start to develop symbolic and focus on perceptual property of stimuli. During this stage, children tend to be “perceptually bound” to readily observable aspects of their environment. For example, when we shop with our children, they tend to learn through symbols especially colours. During this stage, children are sensitive towards colours and shapes. They like to touch, feel a product but they have difficulties to process feel and touch at the same time.
Children would only focus on a single dimension. They would either feel the objects first or touch the object. As the result, we should avoid communicate with children by using compound statement. “Keep the books in the shelf and take the pencil from the drawer.” Instead, we shall break the statement into two statements with subsequence instructions. “Keep the book in the shelf” after the action is completed; only the next action is instructed.
From two to seven years old, children processing skills are not fully developed or successfully utilized in learning situation. Children are characterized as having mediation deficiencies. They have difficulties to use storage and retrieval strategies even when prompted to do so. As parents, we shall continue to remind and reinforce children with the same information to enhance their information storage and retrieval abilities. “Clean your hands after food.” “Brush teeth before you sleep” should be repeated for a long period of time to enable children to enable children from two to seven years old to store the information. Sometimes, we can train our children on information retrieval. “Boy, what should you do before you sleep?”. Besides, after lunch or dinner, you can ask your children, “Girl, finish eating? You should …….” Perhaps open ended questions can be used to train our child or reinforce any actions.
Developments in social perspective are addressed by Selman (1980), who provides a particular apt description how children’s abilities to understand different perspectives progress through a series of stages. Selman describe children six to eight as social informational role taking stage. In this stage, children become aware that others may have different opinions or motives, but believe that this is due to having different information rather than a different perspective on the situation. Children at this stage do not have the ability to understand other have different opinions or motives, even if they have the same information, but can actually consider another person’s viewpoint. As parents, we must sensitive towards this aspect so we can train and communicate with our children well.
Understanding of children communication ability and their impression formation also play important role to have an effective communication with children. Before age of sex, children describe people in concrete or absolute terms usually it relates to physical appearance, “Elephant is big” or “Father is tall”. Besides, children at this age shows overt behaviour. Children would say, “Dad likes to play online games”, and “Mother likes cooking”.
Later of the stage at six to eight years old, children incorporate comparisons as a basis of their impressions, but the comparisons continue to be based on concrete attributes or behaviours (e.g., “Jack runs slower than John”). As practical skills, we shall avoid asking children to do comparison before the age of six. In contrast, we shall train our child to start doing comparison towards objects. This technique promotes children communicating skills in the effective way. This exercise can be done any places at any time by asking, “Boy, can you see the dog and the cat? Are they different? How?” Though this statement, we are able to encourage children to think.
Concrete Operational Stage
According to Piaget theory of cognitive development, concrete operational stage is between seven to eleven years old. Children at this stage do not accept perception and can think stimulus of environment in a more thoughtful way. They can consider several dimensions in thoughtful and abstract way. When a child is given a kite, the child does not only focus on the shape and colour. Now, the child focuses on functional prospective on how does a kite works. They would start to imagine when a kite flies. Besides, the children would relate environment factors on all decision making like they would play the kite during windy days or look for a windy field to play the kite.
Under cued processors, children are able to use storing and retrieve strategies but to be aided by explicit prompt cues. Children have production deficiency. It is shown that children do not produce spontaneous response when needed. At this stage, children understand knowledge about persuasive intent and bias of information such as advertisements. However, children’s ability to retrieve and use the abstract information is still developing.
Turning to social perspective, at self-reflective role taking stage (ages 8 – 10) as children not only understand that others may have different opinions or motives, even if they have the same information, but can actually consider another person’s viewpoint. Unfortunately, even at this stage, children cannot emerge other and own opinion. As parents, we should be aware of their limitation and be more understanding and calm when communicating with them.
In psychological construct phase, children at this stage based on psychological or abstract attributes. For example, children would say my sister is not friendly. Children do not include comparison to others. Parents should be aware of children communicate limitation by avoiding to ask questions that require them to do comparison at this age. Some children tend to give answer just to fulfill the needs of their parents. Children should be train on how to give abstract description in this stage rather than forcing them to answer. This information would be useful for educators as the training strategy among children.
In term of socialization process, children enter analytical stage. Children orientation shift from concrete to abstract. Their focus on functional and features and children is able to have 2 dimensions. They are more thoughtful and able to look into more details. However, children have moderate adaptation in this stage. Parents should base on the information to educate their children. For example, I went to library niece weekly to cultivate her learning habits. I understand her orientation shift from concrete to abstract and I started to read her abstract stories. Besides, the duration staying in library limits to one to two hours because she has moderate adaptation.
Children between eleven and above fall into reflective stage. In this stage, children are able to think concrete and hypothetical objects. Children start to form adult thought pattern. At reflective stage, children use a variety of strategies for storing and retrieving information, such as verbal labeling, rehearsal, and use of retrieval cues to guild memory search.
Turning to impression perspective, children above 11 years old emerge in psychological a comparison which features more adult-like impression of people. (e.g., “My mother is more outgoing than my dad.”) At the same time, children at this stage develop reasoning skills. They are able to emerge other and own opinion and ability of social interaction improves.
Children is able to show persuasion and negotiation skills easily (Selman, 1980). In psychological aspects, children start to compare among people and objects. Children think strategically at reflective stage. Children adaptation is fully developed. They are able to understand social context and meaning related to life. In short, children are able to think like an adult.
Understanding children communication skills will continue to be important for parents and educators in developing strategy to develop children attitude and behaviour.