Communicating With Children

Communicating with children can often be a daunting task. Often they seem to be on another planet and in some respects they are. Their cognitive (mental) abilities are not yet fully developed. Depending on their age they will be incapable of seeing another’s point of view, seeing all sides to a problem or will not be able to visualize abstract concepts. When talking to children it is important to remember that they are not mini adults.

Communicating with Children in 5 Simple Steps

1) Mutual respect is a must for any good communicating with children strategy. By respecting our children’s needs and feelings we will teach them, by example, how to respect us.

We can show respect to our children simply by accepting what they are telling us as being true for them and important to them. It is important for our children’s self confidence that we acknowledge their feelings and beliefs as being real and valid. Even when their perception of reality is extorted we still need to accept that this is how they are seeing or feeling about the event.

By appreciating and trying to understand things from their point of view you will get a better understanding of why they have behaved in certain ways. And it is from this point of view that we can find solutions to problems that create a win – win situation for us all.

For example, often angry outbursts are the result of built up hurt or frustrated feelings. By taking the extra time to learn how our children are feeling and seeing the particular event can help us to resolve any underlying problems. This in turn can help us all to deal more productively with similar issues when and if they arise in the future.

2) Make eye contact when you talk. Physically get down to their level. Eye contract is very important for children (the younger the more so). If we stand and talk over our children, our words literally go straight over their heads. They are often not even aware that we are talking to them; instead our words are often just background noise. So get down to their level and make eye contract with them so they know you are talking to them.

This way you will not only know they are listening to you, you will also connect with your children. What’s more by getting down to their level you will also be showing them respect by understanding and appreciating their smaller stature in this world.

3) Be precise in what you say. Avoid implying things or talking in the third person. Children have many limitations on the way they can processes what you say to them. For example, young children simply do not understand things they cannot feel, see, hear or touch. Older children are still developing the ability to think in more abstract ways. All children are still very ego-centric in their thinking, that is, they see the world through their experiences and find it hard to take the third person point of view.

Because of these limitations in their thinking when we are communicating with children we need to do it in a very basic way. In other words keep it short, sweet and to the point. Use examples that they can relate to. Children from about 5-7 years of age will also tend not to do things that they do not see or understand the point of. It is at this age that we need to start to give short and concise explanations for the things we want them to do.

4) When Communicating With Children, Give Descriptive Feedback. Feedback is an essential element in learning and improving on what we do. Feedback tells us if we are on the right track or not. The best way we can give feedback to our children is by making it descriptive. Describe what you see in a child’s picture, or describe what you like about it. For older children, reiterate what you think they are saying to make sure you are both on the same wave length.

This is also the way to give constructive feedback – describe how it could be done better next time or just offer another way of tackling the problem. Avoid going over the top with your praise or criticism of what your child has done. Children gain self confidence in achieving things for themselves and through consistent appropriate feedback.

5) Putting the negative part first is the key when we are giving short instruction like feedback.

Research has shown that we all (whether children or adults) focus on the negative component of what is said to us and on what was said last. So if we put the negative first we will soften its impact by the more positive last statement. Try it for yourself, read the two feedback statement below about a child’s homework

“Your writing is very neat and looks great, next time remember to try and put a space between the full stop and the start of the next sentence.”

Now turn it around

“Next time remember to try and put a space between the full stop and the start of the next sentence, the rest of your writing is very neat and looks great.”

In the first statement, it is easier to forget the positive comment on the neat writing, and focus on the negative component. The second statement although has the same words will leave the child feeling more confident and please with the good job he has done yet mindful of the gap between the full stop and the next sentence.

All of these communicating with children strategies are easy to implement. Just remember as always when we learn something new it just takes continued practice to 1) get it right and 2) to make it a habit.

Updated: July 3, 2019 — 3:14 pm

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