How to talk with kids

Parentree-editors 2008-10-02 08:07:33

Not just talking to them but talk with them. You can boost their communication skills and make them listen to you.

Communication does not just mean just “talking”.

Observe, Wait, and Listen - OWL

  • Observe. Observe and understand what your child is interested in. Follow your child’s lead. For example if your child is interested in cooking, talk to them about cooking and don't just babble about Legos.
  • Wait. When you ask your child a question, do not follow it up with an answer immediately. Wait for them to talk and answer. Give them time to talk and come up with their own answers.
  • Listen. Listen with full attention and really try and understand what they are saying and what they are interested in.

Now get talking...

  • Get down to your child’s level (especially for the little ones) and look at their eyes and talk. They will feel that you are more interested in them.
  • Be calm and stay positive when you talk to them. This makes them comfortable to open up and share.
  • Use words along with your child’s actions. For example, “I see that you are writing so fast”.
  • When you respond, re-phrase what the child says. This can help in clarifying the child’s intentions and also make the child feel listened to.
  • Give a choice, whenever possible. It boosts their self-esteem and makes them feel included. For example, “Would you like to go to the park or play in the terrace?”
  • Acknowledge and spell-out their feelings. For example, “I know you are feeling sad that your friend is leaving”. Even a short, “Oh ho, so sad” helps. Or “I know you are getting frustrated with opening the jar. It is difficult”. They will feel that you understand.
  • Acknowledge and spell-out your feelings as well. For example, “It hurts me when you pinch my hand.”
  • Acknowledge what they say, even if you are in a hurry - talking to someone or something - you could say, “I see” or something. Remember to get back to the kids later.
  • It is best to talk to them when they need to, versus when you have the time. When they need to talk to you is the time when they are most receptive to listening and learning. So seize that moment.
  • Be a good role model while communicating with others around you. You are your child’s best teacher in the art of conversation.

When there is a fight...

  • First, distract the children. Make sure that the kids are safe and attended to.
  • Find out what the real issue is. Focus on the behaviour and not the kids. For example, “Ashok, when you hit Raju, Raju got hurt and he is feeling sad. What you did was not good.” And NOT “Ashok you are a bad boy for hitting Raju”.
  • Involve the kids in solving the problem. For example, “Raju is hurt now. What should we do? Do you think we should go home now or you want to take a break”. “How will you avoid this in the next play date?”
  • Give the kids a “next time” to aspire for.

Also see,

How to talk to your kids about their art or work


1. Hanen Institute, "It takes two to talk

2. Bing Nursery School, Stanford University, “How to talk with children” 


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