"We as parents need to always be aware of not just what we say with our mouths, but also with our body language."
This time I was so focused on spending time with just her that I was fully of aware of what she needed. This was only about 10 seconds in the car but a lot of information was exchanged in those moments. I noticed how intently she was studying my face as I reached back to snap her seatbelt. It was almost as if she was looking to read my facial expressions to see if I was upset about it. When I became aware of this I threw her a nice smile, which she returned. As I turned back around to go through what was now a green light, I started to wonder how many times in the past 6 years she had been reading my expressions. I thought back to a paper I wrote on nonverbal communication in college several years ago. The most shocking thing I learned from that project was just how much of our nonverbal communication other people rely on. My seatbelt incident was a reminder of this fact. The consequences are a little more up close and personal because in this phase of life it relates to my daughters. Our kids are constantly trying to figure out our moods through the look on our faces. It's almost like they aren't socially developed enough to interpret words quite like they are to read our raised eyebrows, curled lips, or a look in our eyes. Think about it, they've been reading our nonverbal cues since they took their first breath. Researchers show that this innate desire continues through adulthood. Studies have also shown that human beings attribute about 55% of all communication to nonverbal cues. We as parents need to always be aware of the not just what we say with our mouths but also with our body language. Raising two girls, I get a lot of practice at being a "self-made psychologist." Several times, my sweet little ones have come to a conclusion about me for nothing more than an expression I made. As a responsible parent, it is part of my duty to communicate with them so that understand the confusing world of both verbal and nonverbal communication. Here are 4 ways that I'm learning to be a better nonverbal listener with my kids.
4 Keys to Becoming a Better Nonverbal Listener
1. Connect Intentionally- One of the things that has tremendously challenged our relationships over the past several years has been the increase of the amount of tasks we can accomplish with our mobile devices. With these new tasks, it is so easy for us to always be connected to a device at any given time of the day. Each email notification, Facebook post, Snapchat post, or Tweet can send a direct message to our kids that they're not that important. Just the other night during family movie night my daughter asked my wife and I to put down our phones and watch the movie. My first response could've easily been, "I pay the bills in this house," but she was right. Our bodies were in the room but our body was telling them that we weren't really interested in the movie they wanted to watch with us. Some times just putting our phones in another room so that we can fully engage will do wonders for our kids. I personally think that during the few times my kids act out emotionally, could have to do with a feeling of being disconnected from mommy or daddy. I have to constantly make sure that I engage and connect with them intentionally throughout the week.
4. Know When to Hold 'Em-A big portion of a child's development involves physical touch. When life seems ridiculously overwhelming, some times the little people in our house need a loving hug from us big people. This crazy world we live is becoming crazier than it ever has and our kids need to know that we are a safe place that they can come to. It's not easy for some of us dads to do the mushy huggy thing, but all kids at some point need their daddy to affirm them with a hug, kiss, or pat on the back. As we connect with them over the years, they'll teach us our own nonverbal signals and we'll just know when they need our affection. This is true for the 4 year old as well as the 40 year old kid. The Dad Days never end!