How do you talk so that kids will actually listen? Well, talking to kids is an art that every adult should master. Whether you are a parent or a proud uncle/aunt, you should be able to talk to little kids in a way that they will listen and understand.
They are little bundles of joy who are full of energy and life, and communicating with them can be a highly rewarding experience. As a parent, you should know how to talk to kids. You see, the way you talk to your children directly impacts their ability to learn and listen. They are modeling themselves based on you; they are highly receptive and impressionable. The way you speak to your children and others tells them how you expect them to communicate.
Yes, we understand that it can be quite intimidating at first. It is fair to say that there have been several instances in our lives when we have found ourselves become an entirely different person around little kids. Many of us are just too terrified, while some of us are outright awkward and embarrassing.
Whatever may be the case, you should realize that it is, in fact, quite easy to talk to children. At the end of the day, it is just communication that involves listening and speaking. Just like any other skill, you will get better at it with practice.
12 Ways To Talk So Kids Will Listen
If you are a new parent who is not too sure as to how to communicate with your little ones, we are here to tell you not to worry. Good communication is all about encouraging the other person to talk and being able to listen and respond accordingly.
You want your child to be able to express openly what they are feeling and thinking. In turn, you should be able to reply in a way that they perceive to be welcoming rather than disconcerting. To help you get started, here are 11 ways to talk to your children so that they will listen to you:
1. Don’t Try Too Hard
The first rule of talking to your children effectively is to understand that trying too hard will not get you anywhere. The more you try to communicate with them, the farther they are like to go away from you.
If you keep bombarding them with a series of questions, they will lose interest in you. They may even judge you to be a dishonest person, and before you know it, your job of talking to your child has become a whole lot difficult.
Instead, you should take the cool-headed way and communicate with them on their level. Try to imagine it from their perspective – would you prefer talking to an adult who is calm and composed or to someone who is constantly asking you questions and is quite possibly, annoying as well?
2. Keep Things Succinct
When it comes to talking to your kids, one of the best advice that you are ever going to receive is this – keep it simple, mate. There have been many times when we, full-grown adults, haven’t been able to fully comprehend what the other person is saying to us. Now imagine talking to your little ones in the same manner.
Their thought process is a lot faster than ours, and before you even finish your sentence, they would have forgotten half of it. You will know this when your child gives you a blank stare – a confused look.
Instead of taking this approach, you may want to break your thoughts down into simple sentences. For example, if you want your child to do some chores, you may want to start with one at a time, rather than listing them all at once. Similarly, if you want to ask them how their day went, you may want to start by asking about the things they did during the day and then ease into it.
3. Use Their Name
Let’s face it – we love to hear our names. We love it when someone calls for us using our name. After all, it reaffirms our worth as a human being. Children are no exception to this, and they love to hear their names.
It gives them validation; it makes them realize that they do matter, especially when they hear it from their parents. In fact, this can prove to be a highly effective way to convey your message. Furthermore, seeing that young children may only concentrate on one thing at a time, you may want to get their attention first by calling their name.
You can support this further by using eye contact to connect with your kids. As we know, making eye contact while conversing with someone is a remarkable way to get your point across. Not only this, but it leaves a lasting impression on both the parties. If you talk to children by getting down on their level or by sitting with them, it demonstrates good manners and also makes them feel important. Kids want to be treated like adults…talk to them how you would talk to another adult- with proper respect and eye contact. This, in turn, makes for a great conversation.
4. Use Positive Language
When talking to children, try to eliminate negative words such as ‘no,’ ‘do not,’ et cetera from your vocabulary. Instead, replace them with sentences that convey what you want them to do, rather than conveying what you don’t want them to do.
For example, if you don’t want your son to break that expensive toy, you may want to say something like, “Take care of that toy, it is a special gift,” rather than “Don’t break that toy.”
By conveying an action without any negatives, you are creating a positive image in your child’s mind. Consequently, they will be more eager and happy to do the task!
While you are at it, you should also try to cut down on name-calling and shaming. This will only undermine them and bring down their self-confidence. Children are not used to hearing negative things about themselves- in fact, none of us are. If you continue to do so, they will simply cut off communication and end up feeling worthless. If you want to get your point across, use positive words. Try to empathize with them and see things from their perspective.
Needless to mention, it can be incredibly tricky and challenging at first to communicate in this style. However, with practice, you will get better at it and in the end, it will be worth the effort.
5. Be Mindful Of Your Kid’s Body Language
Body language is an important part of communication. A person’s manner of carrying himself can us tell a lot about him, even without hearing him speak. The same fundamental principle holds good for children as well. Their body posture, gestures, eye movement, tone of voice, facial expressions, and the general use of space can tell us a lot more than a thousand words. They may be saying one thing, but their body language may be depicting an entirely different tale altogether.
As a parent, you should be attentive to what your child’s body language is telling you. Many times, kids may not be that expressive, especially if they are upset about something. However, it is quite likely to be evident in their body language.
For example, they may be quite or distant or just dull.
6. Be More Compassionate
Talking to children is completely different from talking to friends and colleagues. You should aim to be more considerate and accommodating.
You should encourage your kids to talk and let them know that you are willing to listen to them patiently. You must be sure not to interrupt children while they are speaking. Wait for them to finish and then proceed with your response. This will also teach your child not to interrupt when someone is speaking.
However, this does not mean that you should continuously nag them to talk to you – this will defeat the entire purpose! Remember, patience is quite essential here. Show them that you love them and that you accept them the way they are. As long as your kids know that you are there for them, no matter what, they will be comfortable sharing their feelings and troubles with you.
7. Empathize And Then Advise
We all want our kids to grow up and be the best versions of themselves. Therefore, when they do share their thoughts with you, you might find some are not on the right track. Say, for example, they are annoyed with a classmate. It’s these moments when you have to step out of your parent shoes and step into a friend’s. Instead of telling them that they are wrong, their thoughts are wrong, and their attitude is wrong, let them get those negative thoughts out of their system first.
Remember, they are coming to you not with the intention to correct themselves but to complain and be comforted. Keep that in mind before jumping to prove your point. Show them that you understand, console them, and then help them direct their thoughts to the right path. They will be more open to correcting their thoughts.
Tell them to put themselves in that classmate’s shoes: maybe he/she was having a rough day? Letting your kids know that you understand their feelings will make them more accepting of the advice you provide.
8. Provide Your Kids With Alternate Options
The art of getting someone to cooperate with you is by making them realize why they need to do so and how it is beneficial for them. In the case of children, however, it may be easier said than done. Nonetheless, there are ways to get your little ones to cooperate with you, provided you can make them understand why they need to do it. This will help them realize the importance of following your instructions.
For instance, if you want your child to finish his homework, you may say, “When you finish your homework, we will go for ice cream.” Similarly, if you want to read a book with your daughter, ask her which book she wants to read, instead of asking if she wants to read. See the difference?
In addition to this, alternatives can also help you avoid answering a question with a blunt ‘no.’ For example, if little Debbie wants to go out and play in the scorching sun, then you can only suggest an alternative – coloring, reading, or playing a board game, instead of flatly refusing.
9. Ask Questions That Compel Your Kids To Think
Instead of asking questions which can be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ you should aim to ask more open-ended questions to your kids. These kinds of questions should make your kids think and open their minds. These questions should be inviting enough for the kids to discuss and share their opinions.
Some questions can be about the best part of their day, what they did in the playground, or even which cartoon character they like the most! As and when they share their ideas, be sure to respond to them to let them know that you are interested in hearing what they have to say.
10. Don’t Be Afraid To Talk About Feelings
It is an excellent practice to talk about all kinds of feelings to your children. This helps them develop their understanding of human emotions and, in turn, sets the foundation for the life that they are yet to experience.
You may ask your children how they feel about things and see what their response is. It can be about something as generic as the day or about something specific such as playing with the neighbor or getting a new pet!
11. Make Time For One-On-One Conversations
Children, especially siblings, can easily feel neglected…and one-on-one conversations with you show them that you do care about them.
This gives you a chance to bond with your kids on a personal level, and it also keeps you updated about what is going on in their lives.
Conversations can be done over any activity – reading a book, going to the park, eating ice cream, or even on a drive. You must make use of the opportunities as and when you get them.
12. Strive To Be A Good Role Model
Remember: children are keen observers. They learn from their surroundings, and they model themselves based on you. Your kids will learn to communicate by observing you keenly. They will even imitate speech and behavior.
The way you carry yourself around your kids, your manner of talking to others, and your general attitude are of paramount importance. If you are polite to others, then they will learn that it is expected for people to be good-mannered.
If you use the golden words like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ often, then you will soon find your kids saying the same!
As you can see, talking to kids is not that challenging. All it takes is a little bit of practice and some patience. Apart from these handy suggestions, what you can do is try to see things from their point of view. At the same time, you should also take into account the age of children. This will further help you gauge your responses and prevent you from behaving awkwardly around kids.