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Positive Communication with Your Child

Communication involves expressing your thoughts, feelings, and ideas. With children, positive communication can help them feel comfortable talking about their thoughts and feelings openly. They can also learn to respect the opinions, feelings, and thoughts of other people.

As a parent, you have the ability to build healthy communication with your children. Several elements are needed for healthy communication skills, which include having a loving attitude, listening, and understanding what is being said. Your child can learn to be a positive communicator through your example. By practicing positive communication skills, children can grow to be responsible and thoughtful individuals.

Here are some simple tips for helping children share their questions, thoughts, feelings, and ideas in a positive manner:

  • Listen patiently: Your child may not understand the expected, appropriate behavior, or even his own behavior. Help him understand by listening to what he says before correcting or disciplining him.
  • Clarify: Repeat back to your child what she said to check if you understand her correctly. This will help your child feel you are listening to her.
  • Allow children to solve their own problems: Gently guide your child to discover his own solutions by acknowledging his thoughts and actions. Respond with brief answers, such as “yes” or “really?” This encourages your child to express emotions with words and find solutions to concerns. Asking your child open-ended questions also helps him find answers, such as “How would you feel if that happened to you?”
  • Use a calm, respectful tone to help your child to listen and speak appropriately. A loud, harsh voice may cause your child to be too scared or angry to listen.
  • Choose the best times to talk about important issues. If your child is hungry or tired, she may find it difficult to listen or manage her emotions.
  • Use positive language, avoiding negative statements like “I don’t care what you say” or “You never do what I ask you to do.”
  • Focus on behavior, not character. Instead of saying, “You are a bad boy because you never put your toys away,” say, “It makes a big mess when you don’t put your toys away.”
  • Be specific with instructions to reduce your child’s mistakes and your frustration. For example, instead of saying “Clean up your room,” say “Please pick up your books and put them on the shelf in your bedroom.”
  • Role-play. If your child is having difficulty understanding why she is being disciplined, you can role-play to help her see the situation from a different perspective. For instance, if your child hits another child, use puppets or other toys to replay the situation.
  • Teach your child that it is okay to disagree, and the appropriate way to express her opinions. Listen without interrupting, judging, or criticizing.
  • Communicate to your children with words and actions that you love them.

In addition to all of these tips for healthy communication, you may need to create more opportunities for you and your child to communicate. You can do this by being more involved in their daily life by doing some of the following:

  • Reading together. Ask questions about the story or how they would handle a specific situation in the story.
  • Attending important school events such as parent/teacher conferences, performances, and athletic events; or volunteer to chaperone field trips and help with school projects.
  • Ask open-ended questions about daily activities, such as “What did you and your friends do during recess today?” or “What did you like best about dinner tonight?”
  • Have family nights and outings for the purpose of spending time together.
  • Make time to play with your children.
  • Schedule weekly or monthly family meetings to share information and discuss important issues.
  • Eat meals together whenever possible, and give each person a chance to talk about their day.

If your child is too young for this level of communication, there are still ways you can begin developing positive communication with an infant or toddler, including: holding your child close to you when you speak, making eye contact, using a soft, soothing voice, and speaking clearly.

As you practice these tips, you can expect a positive effect in your children’s lives. They will encourage open relationships, create responsibility and independence, build their confidence to express themselves, and develop skills to get along well with others.

You can find all of this information, as well as additional podcasts and brochures on important parenting topics on Children’s Home Society of California’s website at www.chs-ca.org.

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