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How to talk to kids: communication tips for parents

Whether we realize it or not, children model how they think and behave on how they’ve seen us act and react. The way that we speak to kids from the earliest age sets a precedence for the rest of life, subtly entraining an accepted attitude towards communication. We’ll be showing you how to talk to kids to build better relationships, helping them open up while shaping vital soft skills that’ll empower them for the rest of their lives.

Contents:

Good communication with babies and children

Good communication with babies and children relies on an intensely personal connection that continues to build for all of life. Communication skills begin building during infancy, with each period of development honing a particular area of development. Parents need to stay aware of early communication signals, adapting the way that they communicate and speak with their children depending on what suits their age.

The way that you speak to children needs to evolve from reading non-verbal cues as a baby to sensing their emotional readiness later in life. A healthy, flourishing relationship between parent and child will reflect mutual respect, honesty, openness, and a willingness to talk. Talking to parents builds confidence and improves the way that children perceive and interact with others — clear communication and developing a natural willingness to socialize aids education and all future career mobility.

How to talk so kids will listen

Gauge every interaction to see if you can find the best way to connect with your child emotionally before engaging and leading them in conversation. If you’re speaking at your children, speaking down to them, or jumping between extremes of passivity and aggression, there’s little chance that you’ll have an open enough bond for any type of meaningful exchange. Children are sponges for knowledge and structure, making assertive communication a must if you want to get through to your child intellectually and emotionally.

With this in mind, here are 25 practical ways to help you talk so kids will listen:

1. Reference your child by their name

We all like hearing our name when it’s not said pretentiously – using your child’s name as a frequent point of reference to get their attention helps young ones focus while forming control of concentration and respect for later in life. While using your child’s name to draw their attention is a good practice to enforce, please don’t resort to calling their name only when you want to discipline them.

2. Communicate using good body language

Evaluate your body language and make sure that you engage your child while maintaining eye contact and holding an open posture – behavior teaches subtle queues that are often never learned anywhere else without formally studying communication as an adult.

3. Stay brief and straightforward

Keep your conversations short and sweet. Don’t beat around the bush, leading the discussion with unnecessary padding in an attempt to get your point across. Short sentences and easy-to-comprehend language will make sure that you’re understood and that they’re not intimidated to speak back.

4. Ask your kid to repeat the question or information back to you

Don’t misunderstand this as a means of enforcing respect or, rather more, demanding it. Instead, make sure that your child can sense that you only want to know that you are both in accordance, understanding each other completely.

5. Positive points of reference only

Reframe negative statements to positive ones, stating everything in a positive context – instead of telling them what not to do, explain what is expected. No progress can be made with negativity.

6. Use your “inside” voice when in conversation

The last thing you should ever do to enforce volume control is to directly tell someone to use an assumed “inside” voice. However, a proper tone sets a lasting example for all future conversations – children pick up speaking habits like this subconsciously.

7. Speak about things they understand and relate to

Understanding what you’re talking about will get you noticed. Having something that they feel strongly about in a conversation will keep their interest and keep your kids talking.

30 questions to ask kid instead of “How was your day?”

8. Hold respectful, well-mannered conversation

Your manners rub off on your child, and it encourages conversation to remain open and respectful. A kid who has grown used to being treated with decency and integrity will expect it in return, leading them to turn to you naturally.

9. Acknowledge how they’re feeling

Opening up often starts with being acknowledged. Step one is recognition, and once your child is recognized, they will feel that their voice is heard – an authority that is essential to all transparent conversation.

10. Use socially appropriate speech around your kids

Offensive, insensitive or judgemental speech is highly contagious. Furthermore, once your child has been offended or forced to accept another saying something scathing, they’ll feel threatened that it’ll happen to them, repressing their own expressiveness.

11. Write your child messages

Keep in mind just how much clarity you can concisely convey with a succinct message. Whether it’s a friendly reminder or encouragement, leaving your kid a note gives them space, and it gets your voice heard.

12. Close discussions that aren’t open for negotiation

Leaving resolved matters up for discussion causes nothing but unneeded tension while instilling the attitude that decisions aren’t final. Close off current issues so that they don’t splash over and harm future conversations with your kids.

13. Inform your kids of decisions and upcoming plans early

Give your children notice before you snatch them away from whatever they’re doing. They’ll be more open to the change, and it sets a good example.

14. Give a reason that they’ll understand for compliance

Blunt commands and ultimatums without any logical reasoning will most often be blank-face ignored. However, give a reason for compliance and communication becomes a two-way street.

15. Keep your questions open-ended

Pose open-ended questions to your children as they grow older so that they don’t feel as if there is a right or wrong answer to give. Once they’re familiar with unconditional bonding, they’ll be much more likely to open up to and present their own questions to others.

16. Speak relative to their development and attention span

Age-appropriate speech and conversation duration will make sure that your child is focused and attentive. Each age group’s attention span and conversation style will differ, so adjust according to your child’s intellectual and emotional development.

17. Make sure your questions are non-judgmental

Keep judgments and conclusions to yourself, resorting to “I’ statements that grant insight through personal testimonies from your life. Keep your stories short and relatable while presenting questions that are free from judgment.

18. Connect with your kids every day

Bonding with your child or children daily will steadily but surely make your relationship stronger and stronger, including your ability to converse and share in each others’ lives. Many parents have found it highly beneficial to create scheduled time specifically for bonding daily from a young age.

19. Keep yourself available for conversation and support

Getting your kids to listen when you talk takes showing that you’re available to listen. You don’t need to have all the answers, and they definitely don’t want you to rearrange every aspect of their lives, but showing that support is there is essential.

20. Don’t respond in anger

When you’re barking at your children, you’re not instilling commands or forcing a conversation – you’re breeding bad interpersonal skills and a tendency that’ll grow their affinity for irrational responses and outbreaks.

Age-by-age guide to talking to kids

Assertive communication will set the foundation for developing an eagerness to express themselves. Just as you present your thoughts and viewpoints on things, so will your children naturally assert themselves and engage others in conversation. The better the example you set for speaking with another, the more your child will want to be heard and listen. Let’s take a closer look at how to interact with each age group.

Questions every parent should ask their kid!

Preschoolers

Between the ages of 3 and 5, kids are only beginning to develop language, learning, and play milestones. They can understand an immense amount of information but don’t always know how to put their thoughts into sentences. Make your conversations short, concise and specific.

Instead of asking about what they did in general, ask about their play area, like a jungle gym or sandbox specifically. A lot of the communication at this age is to find out how your child is feeling rather than what they were doing (which you already have a reasonable degree of control over).

Young kids

At 6 to 8 years old, kids are developing independence and starting to think about the future. More attention is given to friends and acceptance. All this means is that you need to spend more time bonding with your child rather than bombarding them with questions.

Activities together foster a bond where your child knows that you’re available without pressure. Casual chats are the name of the game. Take time to share details from your own life so that they begin to learn the ebb and flow of life, social situations, and communication while joining in play as well.

Older children

From age 9 to 11, parents find themselves involved less and less in their child’s lives as independent passions begin to thrive. Ensure that your children know that you are there for emotional support but listening more and focusing on answers less. Your kids don’t want their problems solved and people in their lives judged, so instead of providing suggestions, relate by providing more information from your own life and support their decisions. Remember to keep your speech and examples relevant to someone of this young age.

Teens

By the time your child has reached their teens, there will be an established blueprint for conversion. Again, no judging together, but working through problems is always a good idea. Hanging out is encouraged and may take some getting used to, but never do anything that would compromise your child’s feeling of independence and encroach upon their personal space.

As your kids reach closer to adulthood, let them take the lead more while showing an active interest in the things they are focused on. Acknowledge their information and input in conversations. Always discuss things in a supportive manner.

Teenage-parents blackmailing! How to find common grounds with the “not so little” child?

Young adults

When young adulthood is reached, your children swear blindly that they’re full-fledged adults already. Treating them as anything other than adults will immediately cause a kickback, placing unnecessary tension on communication. Be brutally honest. Be real, but don’t be a judgy, winey, condescending, would-have, could-have, should-have, intimidatory parent. That’s a monster that every growing adult will clam up to. Pick your timing for conversations carefully, using opportunities when they feel open to bond, and never stop supporting them.

How to make kids like you

The way that you carry yourself and communicate with children will determine whether they like you or not. Parental relationships are complex and rely on a balance of respect, affection, healthy discipline, and loving attention to thrive. If your child doesn’t appear to like you, they’re masking a feeling that they don’t know how to communicate with you. Dedicate time to helping them open up and make them understand that you love them unconditionally, and the source of the supposed dislike will be revealed.

More tips for parents

Speak to kids with these ten tips in mind, and you’re sure to build a better channel of communication and emotional transparency between you and your kids:

  1. Speak openly and honestly, showing kids you’re a person too.
  2. Make emotional literacy an ongoing priority.
  3. Use the time in between events for bonding and conversation.
  4. Be attentive to the details shared during conversation.
  5. Never make assumptions.
  6. Stay in touch across all platforms (text, apps, social media, phone).
  7. Actively create opportunities to talk.
  8. Nagging never works, so explain how you feel instead.
  9. Thank your child for their involvement and engagement.
  10. Trust will feel impossible to repair, so foster truthful relationships with kids.

Keep on communicating to strengthen relationships

Communication is a skill at the cornerstone of success for all individuals. We all know just how big of a difference being able to open up and express yourself makes, acting confidently and rationally in social situations. However, social development is all too often overlooked, leaving communication and emotional intelligence to grow reactively. What tips have you picked up about how to talk to kids? We encourage you to share your findings in the comments below.

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