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Parent-child communication is at the heart of teaching future adults effective ways to communicate with others. Children learn attitudes, values, and behaviors, as well as gain knowledge, through communicating with others - the most important of whom are their parents. Communication between parent and child begins the day the child is born, or earlier, and continues as the child grows, matures and changes.


Parents are the models that children imitate during their childhood years. Parents who pay attention to their child's concerns and ideas teach their child that they are important in the family. Parents also teach the child how to listen to someone who is speaking. When parents talk respectfully to children, they are teaching children to be respectful when they speak. Shouting teaches children to shout, just as the words we use teach children that it is all right to use the words and language spoken in the home with others.


Talking and listening to children are the ways we most often communicate with our youngsters. Our facial expressions, gestures, and body language can also send messages. As we talk and listen with our children, some of the following suggestions could be useful to reflect upon:

  • Do allow children to express themselves in their own words.
  • Do listen carefully to what your child is saying.
  • Do let your child explain what happened before making your comments.
  • Do repeat what your child has said to clarify and show your understanding.
  • Do wait for your child to finish an idea before starting your response.
  • Do respect your child's ideas and feelings about situations.
  • Do not interrupt children when they are talking.
  • Do not change your child's words to fit your expectations.
  • Do not disagree immediately with what your child begins to say to you.
  • Do not finish your child's sentences for him/her.
  • Do not dismiss as unimportant your child's feelings (fears, angers, frustrations).
  • Do not change the subject of the conversation.
  • Do not jump to conclusions! Let your child express his/her thoughts.


At times, our children seem to NOT listen well to parents. It could be that as adults, we are used to talking about several things at once, or giving a list of chores all at the same time. An effective way to help children to hear us better is to first get their attention, call them by name. Next, make one request at a time. Thank your child for their help. Then, make a second request. Finally, as children grow older, a short written list of ideas can help both you and your child to stay focused.


With Infants:

  • Talk face-to-face with your baby. Smile, speak softly - than more loudly, change your speaking tone.
  • Talk about what is around you. Point to the lamp, book, or tree and name them.
  • As your baby coos or makes sounds, smile and say, "Yes," or "You talk so well."

With Toddlers:

  • Name objects in your child's world, the stop sign, the cow in the field, or the big truck.
  • Talk about what things do, like the knife cuts the apples, or the shovel digs the hole.
  • Ask your child questions, and listen to their answers.. .without interrupting. Where is that bird? What is that boy doing?
  • Go outside and listen for sounds. Talk about what you both hear. The wind.. where is the wind? The dog barking.. is it a big dog?

With Preschoolers:

  • Continue to name objects that may be new to your child.
  • Listen for their questions about things they discover and wonder about. Answer their questions in words they understand.
  • Think about new experiences your child will enjoy. A visit to the library, a golf course, or a farm can lead to lots of talking about what happens here or who works here.
  • Preschoolers love books. Read often. Talk about what the characters are doing.
  • Talk about the music or the program that your child watched. Listening and remembering encourages thinking skills to develop!

School Aged Children:

  • Children this age love to talk about their friends. Listen and show interest by asking questions about their activities.
  • Encourage reading together. Yes, together! Take turns reading pages or paragraphs of a story. Talk about what might happen in   the next chapter.
  • Ask about your child's day at school, or the birthday party they attended. Show an interest in what they are doing.
  • Talk about your activities. Share what you are doing or something comical that happened.
  • Encourage children to talk directly with others: grandparents, teachers, friends. Help them find the words they may need to discuss a concern they might have.
  • Listen carefully. Restate their idea to see if you are on target with their concern/idea.

Pre-Teens and Teens:

  • Arrange private times together. This could be during a drive to the store, or before bedtime. Private time together encourages   special talks between you and your child.
  • Realize that talking more with friends is part of your child's development. Allow your child the freedom to talk with others.
  • Listen carefully to their ideas and concerns. You might not agree with their reaction to a situation, but you can describe why   another way to handle the situation could be possible.
  • As pre-teens and teens grow they are looking for independence. Watch for things they are doing well, thank them or offer them   encouragement.
  • Include your child in family decisions when possible. Family vacations, visiting grandparents, or pancake breakfasts can be   discussed together. Paying bills, helping with chores at home, or planting the garden can also be discussed.
  • Speak and listen respectfully. Your child is learning from you how to react to others.