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The Effects of Negative Nonverbal Communication on Children

By Sara Ipatenco ; Updated June 13, 2017

Most parents believe that communicating with their child is only talking; they often forget that listening is an equally important part of effective communication. The nonverbal signals that you as a parent send to your children can impact them in many ways. HealthyChildren.org recommends that parents consider how negative nonverbal communication, such as poor listening, will impact their child.

Perceived Lack of Support

When a child's feelings and thoughts are not validated by her parents, she may begin to believe that they are uninterested in what she has to say and how she feels. Poor listening is one of the ways that parents use negative nonverbal communication with their children. It is true that most parents are busy with their careers and the responsibilities of running a home, but good listening skills foster a supportive and close relationship between parents and their child. Using a cell phone or computer or watching television while your child is trying to talk sends the message that something else is more important than the child and can lead to a belief that you think what she has to say is not worth listening to. KidsHealth.org recommends that parents set aside time each day to actively listen to their child so they can offer support and build a close bond.

Loss of Self-Esteem

Body language can either show love or show disinterest. When parents are not willing to hug and kiss their child or offer smiles and other encouraging gestures, it may result in a loss of self-esteem. Loving gestures build a child up and let him know he is supported and cared for at home. Turning a child away or pushing him away when he is seeking physical affection may cause him to feel unloved or unworthy of being loved. Positive expressions and nonverbal displays of affection are important for building a child's self-esteem.

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Lack of Good Role Model

Parents are very influential to how their children grow up and parent their own children. Most parents tend to communicate with their child the way their parents communicated with them. When nonverbal communication is negative, children do not have a good role model for appropriate ways to build relationships. KidsHealth.org recommends that parents keep in mind that your children are always watching you. Make sure that your nonverbal communication does not manifest in poor role modeling. If you were unhappy as a child because of how your parents communicated with you, think about how you want your children to view you, and use positive nonverbal communication to break the cycle of negative nonverbal communication.

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