Home > Parenting Advice > Body Language And Parenting

Body Language And Parenting

By: Julie-Ann Amos - Updated: 24 Apr 2017 | comments*Discuss
Body Language Parent Non-verbal Child

Parenting experts and of course parents, spend a great deal of time focused on providing proper food, shelter, discipline, education, and the like for their children. All of these things are important, but what’s often overlooked is the role body language plays in these parenting activities.

How You Use Body Language Can Be More Important Than What You Say

Some parents spend so much time telling their children what to do, how to behave, and such, that they forget one of the most important aspects of parenting – their own behaviour. Children respond more consistently and more actively to what a parent does than what a parent says.

Body language is an integral part of this because children are naturally good at noticing non-verbal cues. And when a parent’s words convey a different message than his or her non-verbal behaviours, guess which message the child is most likely to believe? That’s right, the non-verbal one.

So for instance, if a mum tells her daughter she did a good job dusting but while she’s saying it she has a frown on her face and is running her fingers across surfaces to check for dust, the words are all but lost. The mum might think she’s giving positive feedback, but in reality, she’s giving negative feedback. The daughter will eventually learn to ignore what is said and absorb the non-verbal, negative message.

Areas of Parenting Where Body Language Has An Influence

Research is increasingly demonstrating the broad range of areas where body language has a profound influence on parenting. Some examples include:
  • Goal setting – Parents can demonstrate non-verbal messages that support and encourage a child to set and achieve goals.
  • Work ethic – Parents can step right up and embrace work opportunities willingly, rather than delaying and sitting around avoiding work at all costs.
  • Personal responsibility – Parents can demonstrate personal responsibility in many ways, such as using a rubbish bin instead of walking past & pretending not to see it.

Parental Body Language And Children Of Different Ages

Nature has pre-programmed children to respond to body language, especially newborns and infants. When a parent smiles, claps, shakes their head no, and the like, babies quickly learn what message is being sent.

Toddlers and pre-schoolers will test the messages sent by body language, just to see if the parent really means it. For instance, if a father holds out the palm of his hand in a gesture telling the child to stop and wait, the child might ignore it and try to run away. Dad then reinforces the non-verbal 'stop' gesture by taking the child’s hand and shaking his head back and forth, communicating very clearly that the original non-verbal message must be obeyed.

With school age children and pre-teens, a parent’s body language can have a strong influence on how a child perceives gender roles. For instance, if mum shows disapproval when her daughter digs in the dirt but approval when her son does the same thing, each child begins to notice what the parent perceives as appropriate behaviour based on gender.

Perhaps the most striking example of body language and parenting occurs when grandchildren come along. Suddenly, parents who previously had to enforce discipline and rules have the freedom to show unconditional love, acceptance, and emotion. There is nothing more encouraging or rewarding to a child than a grandparent who smiles and claps at something the child does.

Final Thoughts On Body Language And Parenting

Much of the literature and writing available about body language leans heavily toward interactions between and among adults. Increasingly, though, researchers and parents alike are paying more attention to the role of body language in raising children. This is a terrific development that, if it continues, may help more and more children grow up to be adults who have a good understanding of body language and non-verbal communication.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Mom did not pay too much attention to the toddler and soon the toddler started telling stories that weren't true. The attention was going to the older child and the toddlerwas getting attention by telling fibs.This was one way of getting attention from the parents.The parents realized that these stories were nottrue when confronting the child and the person the stories/fibs were directed at.When this came out that the toddler was 'lying' more attention was spent with the younger child and the 'fibbing' stopped.
Mom - 24-Apr-17 @ 1:26 AM
Body language is a constant, and we need to think about it when talking to children. If you want to make a point they'll understand, kneel down so you can look them in the face. This is a very significant gesture, even if it doesn't seem like it, and your child will take it seriously. Don't crowd them, and don't raise your voice when doing it. Make sure they understand, and be sure to use plenty of facial expression, too, as the young latch on to this quickly.
Carla - 25-Jun-12 @ 2:13 PM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word: