Roger K. Allen: How to talk to your children

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Roger K. Allen, marriage and family professor, speaks about the importance of honesty when communicating effectively with children. (Alex Olpin.)
Roger K. Allen, marriage and family professor, speaks about the importance of honesty when communicating effectively with children. (Alex Olpin)

Roger K. Allen talked about the importance of honesty when communicating effectively with children at the 2014 Campus Education Week. Allen is a marriage and family author, counselor and teacher.

“Communication is the heart and soul of family relationships,” Allen said. He explained the intent of communication is to strengthen children, not express emotion. There are ways to communicate with children that weaken them, and there are ways to communicate that strengthen them, Allen stated.

The two ways that weaken relationships with children when communicating with them are over-managing and over-condoling. According to Allen, these actions result in a perception of mistrust, suspicion and fear to the child.

Communication that can strengthen the child stems from love, trust and faith, Allen said. He explained parents must do more than solve the immediate problem. He said it is important to build trust by exercising honesty skills such as disclosing information and negotiation. When disclosing information, the parent can express honest feelings in a calm manner, rather than attacking the child and decreasing trust.

Allen explained that as children grow older, there should be more responsibility put on them in order to help them learn and grow. Allen added that negotiation is an effective tool for building trust and strengthening relationships. He explained that negotiation is a good way of helping children to use their agency while still complying with parental rules.

Allen recounted a personal story of a time when he put in place a rule that his three children should wake up to do chores before 8 a.m. every day during summer break. After a strong outcry from his children, he realized that forcing this rule upon them was unfair. “As they get older,” Allen said, “I need to give them more ability to influence what happens within our family, and we need to learn how to negotiate agreements instead of me just imposing my expectations on them.”

Throughout the class, Allen used role-play with members of the audience to show examples of how to practice honest communication skills. He concluded by stressing again that the intent of communication with children is to help them learn and grow into responsible and emotionally mature adults.

 

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