Cultivating Positive Communication With Children
Do you sometimes feel like you and your child speak different languages? While effective communication with your child is of the utmost importance, it is also often easier said than done. There may not be an official instruction manual for how parents can get kids to listen, but talking to your child in ways that are appropriate for her age can help guide communication in the right direction.
How to Talk to Babies and Toddlers
It’s never too early to start communicating effectively with your child. When your child is a baby, he uses crying and sounds to communicate. Cuddling, caressing and singing to your baby is the best way to communicate with him during these early months. He might not understand the meaning of the words you use when you speak to him, but he will derive meaning from your volume, tone and body language. As your baby grows into a toddler, help him develop his language skills by expanding on anything he tries to express. For example, if your toddler says the word “cookie,” you can show him how to extend his thought by saying, “You want a cookie. Let me get one for you.”
How to Talk to Preschoolers
If your child is between the ages of 3 and 5, you are likely no stranger to her penchant for asking questions or repeating the same stories over and over again. As your child moves from toddler to preschooler, she starts learning how to verbally express when she is angry instead of resorting to a temper tantrum, and she is able to hold longer conversations. When talking to your preschooler, avoid making jokes or using sarcasm, and instead make sure that you say exactly what you mean. If your child has trouble understanding you, rephrase the same message in a new way. Show interest in what your child has to say by saying “Really?” or “Go on.” You can also improve communication with your preschooler by explaining whenever possible. For example, say, “You can’t touch the stove because it will burn you,” instead of “Don’t touch the stove.”
How to Talk to Kids in Middle Childhood
If you child is between ages 6 and 12, you’ve probably noticed that he becomes more and more independent with each passing year. To prompt more developed conversations, ask your child more open-ended questions that require more than yes or no answers. Encourage your child to tell you what he is feeling or thinking, and actively listen and respond in a thoughtful way when he opens up to you. Communicating regularly and effectively with your child will strengthen the bond between you and make him more likely to listen to you. Try to make time daily for talking and listening, such as at dinner time or during the car ride home from school.
Communication Tips for All Ages
No matter how old your child is, be mindful of your volume, tone and body language when communicating with her. You should also pay attention to your child’s nonverbal communication. If her body language indicates that something is wrong, tell her that you notice she is being quiet, and ask if there is anything she would like to talk about. Remember to talk with your child rather than at her. Model positive communication for your child by waiting for her to finish talking before you respond and always being sensitive and respectful in the way you respond.
Kristina Barroso earned a B.A. in Psychology from Florida International University. She is happily married, works full-time as a public school teacher and enjoys mothering her 5-year-old daughter and 14-year-old stepson. She has also fostered several children and loves writing about parenting, families, education and relationships on WorkingMother.com and TheClassroom.com.