Sure You’re Talking, But Are You Listening
I am often asked, “What is the top thing that parents can do to protect their children from sexual predators?” While there are lots of ways parents can empower their children, the absolute essential key is communication. Developing open lines of communication with your kids can accomplish miracles that will not only deter child molesters, but will forever enhance the quality of their lives as well as yours.
The dictionary defines communication as the act or an instance of communicating; the imparting or exchange of information, ideas, or feelings. Sounds relatively easy, huh? It’s not. When you think about it, most issues that affect us negatively deal with a problem with communication. A misunderstood comment from a co-worker can quickly become an issue that causes enough turmoil in the company that someone loses their job… A failure to use my signal to impart the information that I’ve decided to make a right turn as I’m driving down the road can certainly impact my relationship with the guy in the car behind me… and not properly communicating with your child can, without a doubt, open the door for a sexual predator.
While developing open lines of communication can occur at any stage in life, it is certainly easier if you start early. Most importantly, you need to remember that the best communication is a two-way street and listening needs to be a priority. Encourage talking! Ask questions that go beyond a simple yes or no and try to extend the conversations by asking your child to expand on or to clarify his or her thoughts. Remember you must be patient. Most children have a limited vocabulary and can take longer to express themselves. Try to avoid cutting them off and correcting them as you listen. Kids need to know that they are important and you are interested in what they have to say. You’ll find that repeating or reflecting what your child is saying is a great way to show them you care and are listening.
Having actual conversations with your child about their day can show how important he is to you and it can help you spot potential issues. Is your child active in organized sports? Questions like, what is your coach like? Do you like him or her? Are you making friends with the other kids? These types of inquiries give you some insight into how your child is feeling and if there might be cause for concern. Try asking what your child liked best about his day… what did he like least?
Open communication with your child can do wonders for his self-esteem as well, especially if you avoid being negative with your words. Correcting behavior should be constructive and helpful and without criticism. Show your children how to be good. Kids want to please and when you praise them this helps build confidence and encourages them to continue to express themselves.
Simple phrases like: I’m so proud of you; Nice work; You worked hard on that project; I knew you could do it; and even thank you can have such a positive impact on your child.
The great news is that creating open lines of communication with your child can help prevent sexual predators from getting too close to your child and if they do, can allow you to recognize a possible threat and take action before it is too late.
If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy.
If a child lives with fear, he learns to be apprehensive.
If a child lives with shame, he learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement he learns to be confident.
If a child lives with acceptance, he learns to love.
If a child lives with recognition, he learns it is good to have a goal.
If a child lives with honesty he learns what truth is.
If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice.
If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith in himself and those about him.
If a child lives with friendliness, he learns the world is a nice place in which to live to love and be loved.