Some of the biggest challenges in relationships come from the fact that most people enter a relationship in order to get something. They’re trying to find someone who’s going to make them feel good. In reality, the only way a relationship will last is if you see your relationship as a place that you go to give, and not a place that you go to take.
Have you ever noticed how almost every problem you have ever had can be traced back to relationships, or the lack thereof? Often, our inability to communicate effectively hinders us most.
Almost all arguments, intimacy problems or challenges (personal and professional) are related to relationship and communication problems. This affects our health, our minds and our energy level and is why Kidmandment #5 focuses on improving these skills.
One key fact about communication is that we cannot NOT communicate. We communicate by our presence or our absence, our silence or our words, our gestures and our attitudes. Whether we realize it or not, we are always communicating. The way we communicate may not necessarily be effective or constructive; but we are communicating, nonetheless.
Of course, there are many different types of relationships: lovers, friends, co-workers and family members, just to name a few. Everyone’s definition of a great relationship is somewhat different, but we can all agree that life may be experienced and defined by our relationships. Unless we live out our lives in a vacuum, the quality of our relationships dictates the quality of our lives.
Chances are that anyone reading this book already knows the importance of having quality relationships. Whether at home, school or work, relationships matter. They make a difference in our hearts and souls, and affect not only how we feel about life in general, but also how we feel about ourselves.
The challenge is not in convincing our children that relationships are important. The challenge is teaching them HOW to build wonderful, lasting relationships with the people they love.
One of the best ways to teach these skills to our kids is to focus on integrity and character—and the importance of choosing friends based upon these traits. Unfortunately, children and adults often base their relationships on someone else’s personality and popularity rather than their true character and worth. The foundation of any relationship should be a person’s morals, values and ethics. These are the elements necessary for a lasting relationship.
Trust is built upon experience. It comes from seeing people do what they say they are going to do over and over again, and “coming through” on their promises.
For this reason, it makes sense to hold off calling someone “a true friend” until we’ve known them for quite some time and have developed respect and real trust for them.
Trust is not easily earned. Heck, most of us are challenged by communicating honestly with ourselves, let alone with others. Just look at all the people who appear happy on the outside, but are miserable on the inside. We see this every day in politicians, preachers and movie stars who have a hard time having relationships with themselves, let alone forging committed relationships with other people.
Good communication skills don’t always come naturally; this is something we all need to work on developing. Perhaps we don’t have these skills because we were never taught by our parents or our teachers. The good news is you get to choose what you want to do for your children. Good Parents teach their kids how to talk. Great Parents spend years teaching their children how to be great listeners and communicators.
But, as we now know, there is so much more to communication than just talking. Nonverbal communication is perhaps more important than verbal communication. Our tone of voice, our body posture, our facial expressions, our ability to make direct eye contact, our ability to listen, as well as physical contact—these are all vital communication skills.
As parent-teachers, these are skills we need to teach our kids while they’re young. It is as simple as teaching them to look someone else in their eyes and give them a warm smile to brighten their day. If this is a priority for you and your family, you will find they may learn good communication skills with just a little effort.
In addition to being a good communicator, there are many things we can do to enhance our relationships with others. Validation may be the most important “non spoken-about” skill that should be taught in every household and school. When we validate people, we acknowledge and accept them for who they are, for their individuality. We let them know that they matter; they are important to us and we care about them. Children need to know you believe they are the greatest so they may believe the same. Validation not only helps our relationships but it helps elevate others’ self esteem and self confidence. In a world where self confidence is often a direct reflection on one’s appearance or bank-account size, anything we can do to make someone feel good about himself or herself is another gift we can give our friends and family. Remember, how you treat and talk about others and how you treat and talk to your children is how they will likely treat and talk about others. Validate others and you give them the approval to believe in themselves.
So, if we think about it, Kidmandment #5 isn’t just about becoming a good listener and communicator, or how to be in a great relationship; it is about understanding the importance of others and our impact on them and them on us.
Nothing great can be accomplished without the help of others. If we hope to have any chance of achieving our life’s purpose, our path, our spirituality, our love of learning or any of the other Kidmandments, we need to embrace and cherish the opportunity to be with and interact with others. Teach your children these skills and you teach them lessons that will exponentially affect their lives.