8 Tips for Effectively Communicating With Your Child

Author Steven Cribbs    Category Parenting     Tags

Have you ever gotten that blank stare from your child after you just finished a passionate conversation?

Boy Thinking

A few days ago, I spent a lot of time trying to help one of my children understand something that I believe to be extremely important. I used eloquent words and well crafted arguments. I felt good about the conversation and excited about how things would change…until I tried to get my child to share the conversation with the rest of the family and I got the blank stare and the infamous words, “I don’t remember what you said.”

I have to remind myself of two things when I want to communicate something to one of my children. First, I have to remember that I am not talking to myself. Second, I have to remember that I am talking to a child. Obvious, I know. But, in practicality, it takes a lot of effort.

If I want my children to listen to me and if I want my children to understand what I am saying, then I need to tailor the conversation for that child. I need to remember that my children are not like me (at least in some ways), they do not think like me and they are not motivated by all the same things that motivate me.

Here are eight things that I have learned, and have to work at remembering, in creating effective communication with children.

  1. Use Close Proximity. Rather than speaking from a distance or yelling from another room, take the time to move close to your child.
  2. Listen First. Show that you are genuinely interested in your child.
  3. Do Not Assume. We often assume that our children understand every concept that we share with them – especially if we have said it more than once. As well, it is easy to assume that our children make all of the same conversational connections that we do. Be careful here – ask your child if they understand or if they need clarification.
  4. Speak On Your Kid’s Level. Each child is different, has a different vocabulary and understands things differently. Use language and concepts that they can grasp.
  5. Study Your Child. Take the time to learn what is important to your children, what gets them excited, what scares them, what they respond to, and what makes them feel loved. Then use your words and conversations wisely.
  6. Be Clear and Specific. Children are still learning the nuances of verbal skills. Slow down and be intentional with the words you use.
  7. Create a Dialog. Children, like the rest of us, can easily tune out someone that rambles on endlessly. Make it a conversation with the child, ask questions, let your child share their thoughts (without condemning them).
  8. Be Consistent. This is key…children need consistency. Otherwise, they have a hard time determining the response that you want.

And, there are two more things worth remembering. Our body language speaks volumes and our emotions set the stage.

It is worth taking a moment to step back and thoughtfully evaluate your ways of communicating – with your children and with others. Ask yourself, “What do I do well in communicating and what do I need work on?” Then ask yourself, “Do I want my kids doing what I am doing?”

What else have you learned that helps us to communicate effectively with children? You can leave a comment below.

3 Comments to “8 Tips for Effectively Communicating With Your Child”

  • Jeff Randleman March 7, 2011 at 11:07 am

    Good stuff! I often use several of these when communicating with my 5 kids (well, 4…. Abigail is only 2 months old, so there’s not a lot of communicating going back and forth yet. 🙂 )

    But even so, I find myself frequently talking more to myself than I am to them. I needed this reminder to make sure I’m on their level.


  • Steven Cribbs March 7, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    Sometimes the communication with a young one is a lot of fun…especially as they start to smile and laugh…and, at least they provide a good reason to be talking to one’s self. 😉

  • Twelve Ways To Get Your Child’s Attention « Steven Cribbs March 21, 2011 at 8:22 am

    […] with my kids. Recently I shared some tips for engaging children in conversations – see Eight Tips for Effectively Communicating With Your Kids. But, before you can have a good conversation with your kids, you have to get a line through to […]

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