How to Talk to Your Children the Right Way

father is comforting his son

As a mom or dad, we give a lot of thought to how our children talk to us and how they act. We correct them when they go wrong, and we make sure they use good manners and stay away from being rude. However, we might not always be aware of what we say and how we say it.

Although the school environment can influence the children (regardless of whether they study in a primary school, secondary school, private school or government school), how parents speak to the children also has a large influence on their learning and ability to listen.

We are constantly modelling how to act and behave for our children, and the way we speak to them falls into this category. We show them how we want them to react to us by talking to them and others.

Follow these 5 tips to talk to your children the right way.


1. Say your child’s name

Hearing your name is soothing to your ears. Our children are no different, and getting their attention before presenting your message is beneficial. If need them to do something, say, “Jim, please I need you to…”.

Sometimes, young children can only focus on one issue at a time. Before you talk, call your child’s name until you have their attention. For example, “Sarah (wait until she looks at you), in ten minutes, lunch will be ready.”


2. Use positive language

Try not to use the words “no” or “don’t” all the time. If we say things like, “Don’t drop that plate,” “Don’t run in the house,” or “Don’t drop your shoe in the mud,” your child will have the thought and picture imprinted in their mind, and they will likely do it.  

Rather, try to communicate what you want them to do. For example, “Please hold the plate tight, it’s a special one.” This communication method necessitates a great deal of thought and practice, but it is well worth the effort. 

Try to avoid using ridicule (“You’re such a big baby.”), shaming (“You embarrassed me today.”) and name-calling (“You’re a naughty boy.”). This kind of language accomplishes nothing other than making your child feel useless.


3. Connect with your child using eye contact

You might need to get down on their level or join them at the table. It also demonstrates to your children what they can do while you are conversing with them. It not only demonstrates good etiquette but also assists you in listening to one another.

Before offering them a direction, say your child’s name before you get their attention. They must pay attention to you, and you should model this behaviour for them.


4. Use appropriate tone

Never try to compete with a screaming child. Just talk after they have cooled down. If you use your voice volume correctly most of the time, they’ll take you seriously in an emergency. Because it doesn’t happen all the time, they’ll sit up and take note. 

Shouting instructions or directions from another room can fall on deaf ears. For example, your children might not be inclined to listen to you if you shout from the kitchen, “Turn off the TV now, Pete!” or “Get dressed, it’s almost time!”.

Going into the room, joining in for a minute or two or waiting (if they were doing something important before speaking) would result in even more cooperation.


5. Suggest options and alternatives

When you want your children to work with you, it helps if they understand why they are being asked to do something and benefit them. They must understand the significance of following your instructions. 

Say, “When you get ready, you can play outside.” “Would you prefer to wear the green or blue shirt?” “When you finish your assignment, you can have candy.” “Would you like to eat this or that?”


Final Thoughts

When it has to do with children, keep communication simple. Too many instructions given at once can be difficult for young children to obey.

It’s similar to when we ask for directions and are then bombarded with instructions that we later forget. We can relate to that as adults. 

Therefore, talk to your children in short sentences, allowing them to complete one task before you dish out another. When you talk like this, “Sarah, go arrange up your books, but first, put your dirty clothes in the basket and then feed the dog before going out to play.” 

Sarah is likely to feed the dog before going outside to play because it is the last thing she recalls you telling her to do. Be open to their level of involvement in the discussion, even though we want to strengthen our communication with our children.