Being a father is highly rewarding, but it can also be a very tough job depending upon the day. By design, fathers are intended to be leaders within their respective households. As such, one of the main characteristics of a strong leader is being an effective communicator. Open and honest dialogue in a home not only helps establish boundaries and expectations, it fosters healthier relationships that last a lifetime. But for fathers who didn’t grow up in homes where communication was a priority, it can be difficult to develop the right skills.
Why Open Communication is So Important
Numerous studies have found that kids who are raised in families that don’t communicate well typically end up with emotional problems like anxiety, depression and hostility. Adolescents in general tend to internalize their thoughts and problems. As a father, if you don’t practice open and honest communication with your child you could eventually end up with a teenager who answers your questions with, “Nothing’s wrong” or “I don’t know” more-often-than-not. Kids with emotional issues typically carry those into adulthood and then pass them along to their children.
On the other hand, behavioral experts have discovered that when a child is encouraged to talk, vent and express their innermost thoughts and ideas openly it boosts their self-esteem by making them feel more appreciated.
Being a More Effective Communicator
Keeping positive lines of communication open as a parent can sometimes be a daunting task. But it’s something that you should work on constantly, even when you’ve had a bad day at the office or car trouble driving home. And, when you have a good relationship as a father with your kids, they’ll understand that dad’s just “being a grouch” temporarily.
Here are some powerful ways for you as a dad to be a more effective communicator:
Be a Curious and Empathetic Listener
Motivational author Roy T. Bennett once wrote: “The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.”
As a father, when you listen with empathy and curiosity it helps your child realize that what they’re feeling is normal and valid. As a result, they’re usually more accepting of your opinions and advice once they’ve finished sharing what’s on their mind.
Ways to hone your parental listening skills include:
- Maintain eye contact.
- Give them your undivided attention.
- Keep interruptions to a minimum (That includes your phone!).
- Validate what you’ve just heard.
- Ask follow-up questions.
- Use body language that’s relaxed and non-threatening.
Think Before You Speak
Listening is only half of a healthy conversation, right? Good parental nurturing skills also require that you be a “motivational speaker” too, or at the very least when it comes to your children. If Johnny just told you that he’s ashamed because he smoked pot for the first time, blowing up and lecturing him will just make your son clam up if-and-when something worse happens.
Nagging and yelling at Susie because her report card didn’t meet your expectations won’t give her the chance to explain why she got a “D” in chemistry when it could have been due to a more serious issue. Negative criticism cuts constructive conversations short and potentially severs open lines of communication- sometimes permanently.
Never Put Your Child Down
No matter how angry or exasperated you feel, never, ever, put your child down. Avoid labels or belittling comments, for example, “Why are you so lazy?”, and don’t compare your child to another- especially someone else’s. All these negative actions can cause serious emotional scars that may seriously damage the parental relationship moving forward.
If you’d like some help cleaning out the garage, use an approach like, “Hey son, I could really use some of your muscle today”. In most situations, you’ll be amazed at well it works!
You Have Rights Too
Open and honest communication is a two-way street. As a father, you are also an important person who has the right to be heard when the dialogue is constructive. In fact, as the leader of the household, you have an obligation to share your feelings and opinions with your child. But you don’t have to step all over theirs in the process. If getting your teenager to open-up is like pulling teeth, try asking them open-ended questions.
If you disagree with what you’re hearing, say so, but also validate your child’s feelings by responding with something like, “Honey, you may not agree with me, but I strongly believe that this is the best course-of-action for you to take.” Using this approach will establish boundaries for your child which ultimately make them respect you even more as their father.
Sex, drugs and rock-and-roll are still going to be temptations for your kids just like they were for you. Social media has made parenting even more challenging than ever before. Encourage your
kids to speak openly with you about any topic, even when it makes you cringe.
Create Opportunities to Talk
Only about one-fourth of American families sit down together for dinner, and that’s sad because it’s a great way as a parent to learn about your child’s day and gage their feelings. No matter your child’s age or how busy you both are, create opportunities for the two of you to talk.
Shared activities that fathers and their children can enjoy together might include:
- Ballgame or concert
- Practicing a sport or musical instrument
- Going shopping
- Watching a TV show or movie
- Fishing or camping
Engage your child in healthy conversations by discussing topics they’re interested in, even if their interests don’t align with yours- like their favorite hip hop artists or video games!
Join Our Growing Community of Proud Fathers Today
Nowadays, communicating with your kids as a father is more vital than ever before. The Bible tells us that when we teach our children in the right way, they will ‘grow old’ without departing from what they’ve learned. Open and honest communication should be part of every parenting curriculum.