Communicating Effectively with Children

Effective communication happens when each party involved in a conversation hears and understands the other’s perspective. This tends to get lost in translation when parents or teachers try to communicate with children.

Because the conversation is usually centered on guidance and instruction, the adults do most of the talking. Children often do not know when to speak their own perspectives, or they are afraid to speak because they do not want to challenge an authority figure.

True communication does not begin to happen with children until parents or teachers are sure the child understands what is being said. One way adults can know is by monitoring the child’s behavior for changes based on what was said and see if the child applies what was discussed.

Communicating with children

Real communication also starts when the child is able to feed the conversation back in a way that shows that the message was understood. Listening is a two-way street. It is important that both adult and child are able to repeat back what has been said in order to ensure there are no misunderstandings.

To start an effective communication ritual, parents and teachers should focus first on creating a safe environment. Besides using an encouraging and supportive tone of voice, also care should be placed on making gestures that help the child feel the adults are engaged in what the child has to say. Keeping eye contact and nodding to acknowledge what the child is saying are good ways to start leveling the playing field.

Many times, when a conversation needs to happen, parents and teachers kneel or ask the child to sit on a high chair so that they can be on the same physical level with the adults when talking.

Building a secure environment for parents and teachers to talk to children also involves removing all other distractions. Children who do not have an adult’s undivided attention tend to give their own attention to other things or people nearby. It is important for the child’s self esteem to use both verbal and nonverbal language to make sure the child knows nothing is as important in that moment as the conversation you are having.

The process of building a closer connection with the child can involve the use of questions to spark a conversation or to get the child to open up and share thoughts. If the conversation involves grades of school activities, ask the child’s opinion about the decisions that are being made on his behalf.

Often, the key to keeping a unified front to guarantee the best learning and growth for a child requires keeping the child’s positive input as a key motivator.

Also, in order for children to feel secure communicating, a strong positive relationship between their parents and teachers must also exist. There should be some regular communication system that allows both educators and parents to stay informed about the progress of a child. If you are a teacher or another professional involved in the child’s development, this can be done through regular progress reports, scheduled conferences, email updates or casual phone calls. If you are a parent or another influential family member, make sure to include informal chats that help you keep up with what is going on in the child’s life and see if anything is bothering them.
Children must know their parents and teachers are on the same team. If they ever suspect this isn’t true, a breakdown in communication has already begun.

The most important thing to remember when communicating with children is that even though they are young, they are individuals who deserve your respect, care and attention. You will, after all, play a key role in the adult that they will come to be.

Useful Resources
Listening to your children – The Health Channel 
Developing your child’s self esteem –

6 Responses to “Communicating Effectively with Children”

  1. Charmain Bumbrey says:

    This really solved my personal issue, thank you!

  2. Freddie says:

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  3. Susan Pannell says:

    I enjoyed the video because my kids are athletes, and I liked the analogy of coaching kids to teaching them. I also felt the strategy of getting kids to “try” was a great approach. When I think about my kids playing sports over the years, they have always loved the strategies their coaches used to motivate them to do their best.

  4. Lisa Coach says:

    It is always good to make students feel special. After teaching 15 years, sometimes I feel a student has to really ‘stick out’ as in, act terribly or terrifically, to be recognized. It is hard work to make sure ALL kids feel recognized, and special.

  5. Katie Morrison says:

    These are some great pointers. Nobody really gets “parenting classes” before raising children so it’s really good to know how to communicate with them. Also, being able to communicate effectively with your kids means they will respect you more and probably not be as defiant as a child with a very authoritative parent.

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