The Importance of Non Verbal Communication with Children

“A look,” they say “is worth a thousand words” and I have my addition, “especially when kids are involved”. A look is one of the many ways we humans communicate and I daresay, we say we communicate much more with our face than with our mouth.  Frankly speaking, there aren’t enough smileys-O in the world to exhaust all the different ‘looks’ there are.

As parents, we are mirrors to our children. By observing us they learn how to interact with others, accomplish goals, and get along in the world. We are the examples, and what many do not realize is that our non-verbal messages and actions are stronger than our verbal ones. Ever wonder how you always knew what mummy meant when she let you take sweets from a visiting Aunt/Uncle but gave you a look that screamed out, “Eat that sweet and you are finished!”

Asides form the obvious fact that non-verbal communication is a universal phenomenon, our culture in this part of the world givse the entire idea a whole new definition. As children, we either had to learn our mothers’ special communication techniques or face the dire consequences… Today, we have mothers being extra lenient with children, pampering them and indulging in their ‘little’ excesses but where does NVC4K come in? Do you ever hear a friend say, “My mother would just give me that look, and I would feel bad about myself”? Someone else might say, “I walk into a room, see his face, and my whole mood lifts.” These folks are describing non-verbal communication.

If someone says they love you, but has a look of indifference, or looks lacking in spark or emotion, we tend not to believe it. If someone hugs us, but is afraid of touch and uncomfortable, we feel it. If someone says that they like our clothes but looks distracted, we tend not to give it credit. If we are told that we are important, but a parent is always on the phone, or distracted when listening to us, we do not believe that we matter. If someone talks to us while watching TV, or reading, with no eye contact we feel ignored and unimportant.

The same goes for the kids.

One look can send them scrambling for cover because if looks could actually kill, they would be dead the minute they looked into your eyes. We parents tend to speak a lot without opening our mouths, which we do either consciously or sub-consciously. With our ‘looks’, we send strong messages of the emotions running through us at that time and children easily cash in on this. Anger, disgust, joy, love and many others are signals we send to our kids which go a long way to shape their perception about life and most important of all, themselves. So many kids out there want love and approval so much they land in the wrong place for lack of getting it where it matters the most, at home. A simple look can either condemn or praise and individual and most often than not, a look says it all.

Non-verbal communication consists of expressions, tone of voice, eye contact, and actions. If one looks angry or disappointed, communicates in a nasty tone, or looks all around while talking, this non-verbal communication sends negative messages to the recipient. Note that if non-verbal communication is constantly negative and disconnecting, the unconscious will pick up a value of the self that is low and inaccurate. One might not even know why he or she has such low thoughts about the self.How can you promote healthy self-esteem through non-verbal communication?

  1. Listen to your children when they speak. Give them your full attention and eye contact. Let them know that it is important to hear their point of view.
  2. Do not be afraid to nurture a child. Touch their hand or back, have an upbeat voice and smile. Mirror their movements as they talk. If they use their hands to talk, they are showing you their communication style. If you use your hands to speak back to them, they will relate to you more. You will establish a good rapport with them.
  3. One way to establish rapport is to find out your children’s representational system. Some people are visual, oratory, kinesthetic, or olfactory. Speak in your child’s system. For example if your child says, “I can’t picture myself in that class,” he or she is visual. If he says, “I hear what you’re saying and that rings a bell for me,” he or she is auditory. If smells attract your child, like the smell of cookies, or gum brings warm memories, he or she is olfactory. If touch resonates, use touch and body language more frequently.
  4. Remember to smile, connect, and learn how to be relaxed as a parent so your child can learn the same.

  5. Tell children stories with lots of expression. It will captivate them.

  6. Act curious in your expressions with kids. Let your curiosity and questions show how interested you are in them.

  7. Avoid too serious a look or tone. Lightness and easygoing behavior always fares better.

  8. When your children talk to you, pay attention to them. Do not be on the phone, writing, or doing ten things at once. Value their presence.

“A look is worth a thousand words. Choose wisely.” Remember that words are redundant. The expression and body language tell the story.

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