Talking to Our Children

March 10, 2010

There's no doubt that you do an awful lot of talking to your young children, but all too often it may seem as if your words go unheard. Communication is obviously a two-way process, but there are some steps you can take on your end to ensure successful conversations with your kids.

Make It a Positive Experience

When talking to your child, it is important to maintain eye contact and perhaps get down on their level. In his book, Why Gender Matters, Dr. Leonard Sax suggests that although girls respond best to talking face to face, boys often respond better to shoulder-to-shoulder talks (for example like you would if you were out on a walk together). Pay attention to how your child responds to you when you talk to her and take mental notes on what strategies elicit the best responses. Be sure to always acknowledge your child's feelings as you are speaking to him. Restate what you are hearing so that he knows you are trying to understand. Use statements such as "when you... I feel... because..." to let your child know what you are feeling and why.

Don't Be Afraid To Say "No"

Though on the outside it may appear to be a conversation killer, children need to be told "no" when the situation warrants it. In his book No: Why Kids--of All Ages--Need to Hear It and Ways Parents Can Say It, David Walsh writes, "No builds a foundation for self-discipline, self-respect and respect for others, integrity, perseverance, and a host of other character traits that lead to a happy, productive life." Don't strive so hard to be your child's best buddy that you forget to set limits. Children need rules, and in the end, these limits will build trust which will in turn make for more meaningful conversation with your children.

Be Careful With Praise

It is possible that much of your conversation with your children is a result of praise from you. Statements such as "what a beautiful picture, Johnny" often seem to roll off your tongue. It's natural to want to build your child up in that manner. You dish out the praise in an effort to help your child feel great about herself. But too much praise isn't always a good thing. In their book, Parenting with Love and Logic, authors Foster Cline and Jim Fay warn that false praise can lead to disrespect. They provide the example of a father watching his son fly a model plane. Though the son is repeatedly crashing the plane, the father still praises his child for doing such a great job. The son, not feeling good about it, is left to wonder if his dad is seeing the same thing he is! Cline and Fay suggest offering up words of encouragement instead such as "What do you think of your picture?" or "How did you figure that out?"

Learn More

Perhaps the best way to productively talk to your children is to try and learn more about them. Ask probing questions, such as what they like or don't like about something, or ask them to tell you their three most favorite parts of the day (or three least favorite parts of the day). In turn, be prepared to share what you think as well! Using this technique will not only pull information out of reluctant talkers, but it will let your child know that you care about the little things that are important to her.

From the Parents

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