Research shows that babies come ready to learn, at birth. Thus as a parent, you are your child’s first and most important teacher. You are the one your baby counts on to be his guide, support, comforter and special talking partner, and he will learn his values, outlook and essential skills for communicating with the world, from his environment at home.
A great amount of learning by a child is done at home, whether it be consciously or subconsciously. Hence, it is important to look at the quality of communication done within your family, as it is from this that your child will imitate, absorb and recreate from to map out his personal life-map.
Children are great imitators, not listeners
As a parent, you are, right now, directly affecting your child’s future and you teach far more through your attitude, everyday interactions and behaviour than by direct instruction. Consider how you approach the world and you will get an idea of how your child will respond to new ideas, to his partner and family, to the need to persevere in order to succeed, and to approaching challenges later on in life.
Why? Because children imitate better than they listen. They do not learn because we tell them what to do. Instead, they grow through experiences and by modelling their behaviour on those they love. If mum or dad responds to frustration by shouting in anger, so will the child in the future. If his role models speak disrespectfully to the domestic helper or other family members, so will the child.
Conversely, a child who grows up surrounded by cherished books and lively, inclusive conversation will be keen to learn and read. The child who is respected and understood has high self-esteem and knows his ideas count.
Children are always learning subconsciously
As we go about our daily activities, working, marketing, reading, writing, cooking, cleaning or relaxing, we are sending our children messages that their subconscious receives.
- Dad is too busy to talk to you
- Homework is more important than anything else
- We make all the decisions here, your ideas do not count
- You must behave well at all costs — your feelings do not matter
- We do not have time to read, we watch TV instead
- It is only good if it is perfect
As parents, we need to be conscious of what we communicate, so that the messages we send are positive and build the family as a unit. As we go about our daily routines, the messages we are sending should be as follows:
- We will always make time for you because we love you
- We appreciate your talents and efforts at art, movement, music, and play
- Your ideas are always interesting and worth listening to
- Discipline is something we follow because we want to be purposeful and caring
- We respect each other’s feelings and apologise if we hurt each other
- We want to read and learn in this family
- You can do anything because you are unique and special
So how do we practise sending positive messages to our children, at home? By enjoying healthy family activities that promote individual development and healthy communication! Activities like conversations, outings, reading together, imaginative play and drama, fun with music, art and craft. These are all forms of play; all forms of creative communication that encourage individual expression; all family occasions that say “I value spending time with you”.
Conversation is the basis of life; the heart of every family or social group. Do make time to enjoy its inherent ability to nurture, by listening to each other.
Outings put the fun into family weekends! There is so much to talk about and planning is half the attraction.
Reading together is how we learn without needing to leave home!
Imaginative play and drama comes naturally to young children. Join in and learn with them, extending favourite stories by “becoming” the characters, role-playing families, professions, and animals.
The value of art, craft and music lies in our ability to take the same tools as everyone else and create a unique masterpiece unlike anyone else’s. The imagination allows grass to be purple and sky to be red, for a cow to have wings or a fish legs. Create a family painting, collage, machine or orchestra from recycled household containers, challenging you to explore imagination through art and sound. Discuss your creations and resist all urges to “improve” your child’s contribution. Once everyone realises there is no right or wrong, imagination will be bounded only by motor abilities.
Childhood is a special time to be remembered by your child and by you. With conscious family communication, it will also equip your children with the biggest skills in life.
Julia Gabriel offers a range of innovative and holistic communication programmes delivered in a safe, supportive and dynamic environment for all ages. Click here to learn more about them.