In my book “How to live with your Kids when you have already Lost your Mind,” I identify three levels of communication that we generally use as we talk to our children.
Children have a desperate need for “Level Three” dialogue. On second thought all of us could use a good dose. Here’s what it is.
Level One: Informational Nagging
Informational nagging sounds like this:
- Empty the garbage!
- Clean your room!
- Brush your teeth!
Usually followed by;
- Did you empty the garbage?
- Has FEMA still designated your room a disaster area?
- What’s that growing on your teeth?
Level one communication is designed to get things done, but does little to build relationships. Unfortunately it is easy to allow this to become the default as we communicate with our children.
Level Two: Intellectual Dialogue
Intellectual Dialogue encourages the exchange of ideas with the freedom to express personal belief about faith and issues in culture.
Squelching a child’s expression of their belief doesn’t inform them or change their beliefs, instead it quickly teaches them to hide what they think and only say what they think we want to hear.
Intellectual Dialogue is an important step in building trust in relationships. If you allow your child to express what he/she really believes and thinks, it will give you an unobstructed view of your child’s heart and open the door to share your views.
Level Three: Heart to Heart Dialogue
Level three Dialogue strengthens relationships even further. This level of dialogue is characterized by careful questions (questions full of care) words of encouragement, free exchange of feelings and fears. Most importantly Level three dialogue contains verbal expressions of love and appreciation. These are matters of the heart.
- You seem angry.
- Tell me what is going on?
- Are you sad?
- Help me understand why you made the decision you made?
- I believe in you and know you can do this.
And most importantly,
- I love you!
All three levels of communication are needed in every day life. Our children need healthy doses of level three dialogue. Our family, friends and coworkers will benefit as well.
How much level three communication did you receive as a child?
How much do you use as a parent?