Communicating with Your Child: The Basics

Communicating with Your Child: The Basics

  • Get down on their level
  • Aim for the 3 meter rule – Don’t say anything of significance more than 3 meters from them! (Don’t say important things up the stairs!)
  • Side by side talk is less threatening so in the car, doing a task together, even watching TV
  • Let children say random things. If they don’t make sense, just repeat back what they say thoughtfully, and say “hmm, not quite sure I’ve got that?”
  • Don’t rush to give “the answer”  or “the solution”
  • Sympathise with the feeling and then ask them what THEY think?
  • Children will often solve the problem themselves!


Example: Ben (8years) is helping Dad check the car tyre pressure.

Dad: See we just have to look at the numbers like this..?

Ben: Dad, do you think they have chosen the teams already?

Dad: Ah, you’re thinking about the hockey teams for the tour?

Ben: Yes

Dad: It’s hard having to wait isn’t it?

Ben: I just worry I’m too rubbish to be in the team..

Dad: Oh that’s a big worry! Can you remember what the coach said?

Ben Well, he DID say I was a good defender.. maybe I’ll be ok.

Can I check the next tyre myself?


The Technology Block to Communication

The use of iPhones, iPads and mobile phones in general means we are often preoccupied with a screen when our children want to speak to us. They are often absorbed too, but we must start with our own behaviour.

Put the phone DOWN when children are speaking to you – even to say, “I’m sorry I will be free in one minute.”

The “dead” face problem – remember your face often goes still and unresponsive looking when using a screen. This can be very harmful for babies and young children if this happens every day. They are likely to experience the “screen face” as the parent being “absent” or disapproving.


Getting Children to Co-operate

We should start be asking ourselves – “why do we want obedient children?”

There is a relationship between our feeling of being in control and stress levels. If children seem to be out of our control, we can react with stress which quickly becomes irritation or even aggression.

Rather than bemoan our disobedient children it might be more helpful to take a realistic look at why they are having trouble co-operating and whether what we are asking is reasonable given their age and stage of development, and also the children’s stress levels (e.g. what are they dealing with right now, what are they NOT coping with?)

Check that we are not expecting adult understanding and co-operation from beings with immature brains and reduced rational abilities!


Family expectations

We can also check to see whether our “obedient child” idea comes from our own parents?  Are we following our own family expectations or perhaps rebelling against them?

To get children to co-operate we need to start again with ourselves. If we model helpfulness and patience with our partners and friends, children will imitate us.

Set expectations of respect and understanding in communication.

Say sorry if you make a mistake.

Backtrack if you shouted or were unduly harsh, whilst maintaining your role as adult.

All the research shows that “authoritative parenting” works best – a firm but fair approach where children are allowed to have their views at least heard.

This is different from “authoritarian” parenting which maintains that children must simply obey adults and don’t need to have explanations (“just do as I say”, or “because I said so!”)


Golden rule: Children want your love and approval

Children don’t do things just to “be bad”

Or ”just for  the sake of it”.

Or because they are a “little devil”

Or on purpose because you just sat down for a rest..

They might be acting out of curiosity – what will happen if I open that car door,

Or because they are feeling hungry and take food they shouldn’t   or because they are mad and are angry about their own wishes being stopped.

Sometime because they have chemical or hormonally driven impulses they can’t control. – testosterone being one ….

There is always a reason, and they basically would prefer your love and approval. They need HELP with the areas they can’t control rather than punishment.


Clear instructions help   ATA

ASK  - Please would you switch off the TV in 10 minutes

TELL – It’s now time to switch off …pause…if not that will be 15 minutes off TV time tomorrow. (clear sanction warning given)

ACT - you switch off TV and say “OK that is 15 minutes less tomorrow” (said in a very neutral voice)

A fighting scenario..

“Could you give me the sword please, I’ll look after it…” (ASK)

“The sword comes to me, Jordan, fighting time is finished. “(TELL)

Take the sword, and say – “sorry you couldn’t do what I asked. This goes away for two days.. “(or whatever) (ACT)


Maximising Co-operation

Don’t set them up to fail

Don’t say:  “ Come on, let’s not have any of that fuss we had last night!

   ..and I don’t want any moaning!”

Expect them to want to work WITH you

Reward the right behaviour

   “Thanks for helping me with that!”

   “Good sitting at the table!”

   “Great job, I can see you’re working hard” (give stickers or small token rewards if it helps)

Keeping in touch will lead to…

Better Communication which paves the way for…

Better Co-operation

If children believe you are working to stay in touch with them and know about their concerns then they are more likely to co-operate in the family. (see Blog Post “Keeping in Touch with our Kids”)

This is essential to create a warm loving base, so they remain in good relationship with you for the rest of their lives!