Shortly before our daughter turned two, my husband, Matt, caught her pulling an electrical cord out of the wall. "No," he said, and she turned to face him, her cheeks reddening, her blue eyes glistening. She crumbled to the floor, put her head in her arms and sobbed.
"What happened?" he asked me, utterly confused.
"You hurt her feelings," I said, picking her up. She turned her face into my neck.
"How?" he asked. "All I said was 'no.'"
You see, our two boys always heard, "No," as in, "No for now." Or, "No," as in, "I dare you to." Forget child-proofing. We put chairs in front of outlets to keep their fingers and toys out of the sockets. Closing the Communication Gap in Your Relationship
And they bonded with their dad over activities—throwing a football in the back yard, hammering nails into boards, trailing after him to help change light bulbs. They got a problem? He threw out a solution. 'Cause feelings? Who wants to talk about those?
As it turns out, our little girl. And not because she's looking for advice—she's looking to connect.
She does that through what she shares, expecting reciprocation. Because Matt's love for her is so pure and unconditional, he's willing to bend to her, to learn how to communicate her way. In two and a half years, she's managed to teach him more about how to talk to women than I have:
1. Eye contact matters. It establishes a connection. It shows you're listening. "Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!" she says when he's not looking at her. And he puts down his hammer or his Blackberry to let her know he hears her.
2. Interpret body language. Usually you can see a storm brewing: averted eyes, crossed arms, lack of a hug. Asking her, "Is everything OK?" sooner rather than later can keep small things from getting bigger. 5 Ways To Control Your Body Language
3. Sometimes she's not ready to hear you. She's obvious about it: she puts her hands over her ears. But he's learned a cooling-off period helps her—and him. (He's also learned sometimes food helps. This holds true for me, too.)
4. Think before you speak. For my lawyer husband, the truth may be a defense—but it can also hurt. And she carries his words with her, even after the conversation is over. "You don't like my shirt?" she'll ask, as if it's a reflection on how he feels about her, rather than the fact that her shirt is stained. Women remember emotional events in a way men don't. A Couple's Guide to Communication
5. Learn to reassure. "You made me sad, Daddy," she'll say the morning after a bedtime battle. Her world is built on relationships, on feelings. And underneath it all, she wants to feel connected, to know that her Daddy still loves her through it all.