Parental Influences on Interpersonal Communication

One day a busy mother and her 5-year-old daughter were discussing a decision. "Why can't I go, Mommy?" "Because it will be too late." "But why will it be too late?" After several whys, the mother turned to the child and said with some asperity, "Because I'm the Mom and I said so!" Then she clapped both hands over her mouth, because she had sworn never to say that to her children.

Parental Influence on Communication

Parents do influence their child's communication. Children learn to talk by listening to their parents, gain vocabulary from the words they hear in the household, and soak up attitudes like little sponges. By the time you are an adult, your regional accent, vocabulary and intonation are very similar to those you heard in your childhood household. More than that, you have observed the way your parents treated each other and listened to the way they communicated, says Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and author of "Parenting from the Inside Out." 2

Communication, Attachment and Intimacy

According to an article from the International Journal of Behavioral Science, "Parents' Communication Style and Adolescents Attachment, Intimacy, and Achievement Motivation," there are several factors in the influence that parental communication has on teens. They include parents' communication style, which include loving, assertive, aggressive or passive. A loving style might be "I'm glad you were asked to the party, but I'm afraid you can't go." An assertive parent might say, "I'm sorry. That's just not an option." An aggressive style might be, "No way. No kid of mine is going there." A passive parent might say, "I don't think it's a good idea, but do what you want."

Making Changes

To make changes in the way you communicate with your child, employ principles of polite communication. Listen actively and respond mindfully. Active listening focuses on the message in the words, and responding mindfully means keeping your child's well-being in the forefront of your mind. Daniel J. Siegel, in "Parenting from the Inside Out," reminds us that when we listen mindfully, we are less likely to make reflexive stock responses such as "because I said so." Pro-active parenting, such as setting a numerical limit on the number of "why's" that will be answered, lets parents limit gently without hurtful responses 2.

Are You Doomed to Talk Like Your Parents?

Parent training programs, such as those put out by the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT), focus on learning positive ways to nurture good communication habits, and to eliminate learned hurtful responses. Parent training programs help people learn appropriate phrases to replace sarcastic or insulting stock phrases that they may have heard from their parents. Parents as Teachers, run through local schools, county-run family clinics and some churches may provide parent training programs. If there are no local options, Positive Parenting Solution provides online classes.