Every day you are sending silent messages through your body language to your kids in the form of non-verbal communication. Psychologist Albert Mehrabian published a book about it in the 1970s and his conclusion was this:
When it comes to credibility, Mehrabian found that we assign 55% of the weight to body language, 35% to tone, and 7% to actual words.*
Of course your words are important, but if your body language is not backing up what you are saying, those words will become meaningless. If you’re trying to teach your child something or you’re simply talking with them, they will pay to what your body is saying too. Here’s a body language checklist for you to be aware of as you communicate with your children.
Have you ever been in a conversation where someone said one thing, like “I’m fine,” but you could discern by the expression on their face that it was not true?
Kids can read your face too. You may say “No, I’m not upset, ” but your smile is gone and your lips are pursed. You may say, “I forgive you,” but you can’t look at them squarely because you are still struggling inside.
Your smile carries a lot of weight. Try using it more often, especially during teaching moments or when you ask your child to do something.
If your child hurts you or disappoints you, you may struggle to give them eye contact. Eye-to-eye contact is a strong connection that your child needs and not getting it may make them feel shame or rejection.
Folded arms in front of you may communicate defensiveness, resistance, and disapproval. I have become much more conscience of this lately even in everyday conversations. Even if I don’t feel any of those emotions, I know that my crossed arms may distract from my words.
When a person’s shoulders and body are turned away, it communicates that they’ve lost interest or are not fully engaged in your conversation. When you are talking with your kids, you may very well be listening, but if your body doesn’t back that up, they will feel like you’re not fully paying attention.
Your tone of voice says everything. It’s part of the difference between sarcasm and teasing, between commanding and requesting, and between lecturing and sharing. Measure it, contain it, and use it to help your child open up.
Use your body language in a positive way.
One of the most common things you may tend to communicate to your kids is your impatience with them. Any of these actions can say to your child that you are irritated: sitting slumped and looking down, staring at something else besides your child, fidgeting, doodling or writing, and of course, scrolling on your phone.
On the other hand, your body language and the silent messages it sends can let your child know that you are trying to understand and connect. Smile when they smile at you, nod your head that you are listening, look sad to empathize with them when they are expressing their hurt or pain.
You may feel like you don’t always know how to answer their questions or even how to give them the right advice. But body language is a powerful tool to help you even when words don’t seem enough.
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