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Tell It Like It Is—Communication

The family is where a child learns words and their meanings. What you say and how you say it has an important effect on how your child will view himself and his world. Babies communicate their needs and wants from the first moments of their life. Their cries let the family know that they are hungry, tired or need to be held. The family is how a child learns to understand and to express his wants, needs, feelings, opinions and ideas.

Include your child in conversations from the very beginning. Help him join in. At first the sounds are babbling. Then slowly the child learns to join in. Families who involve their children in conversation give their children important practice in communication and social skills, as well as a better chance for future success.

Give your child words for everything. Talk about what you did, what you are doing, and what you plan to do. Provide your child with words for his feelings. Help him to state them. A child who can say, "I am frustrated," or "I'm really happy" can share more about his world. A child who can use words will be less likely to act out his feelings, and feel more secure. Encourage your child to speak up and ask questions. This is a way to learn more about the world, and contribute to conversation.

Let your child talk on the phone, talk with older children, and talk with older adults. Write down your child's words on paper about his thoughts and feelings. Young children especially like to see their words in print.

Ask questions to show you care and start conversations that make children think. Instead of "what did you do today?" ask questions like, "what did you like the best about today?" or "Did anything happen today that made you laugh?" or "What one thing did you learn today?"

Children are really aware about adult communication. From the time they are very young, they can tell when adults are preoccupied, distracted or not listening. Children, like adults, tune out when they don't like the tone, lecturing, or lack of listening in a conversation. If they think their part of the conversation is being ignored or rejected, they become mad or disinterested.

Take the time to build communication within your family. Think about the words you use and take the time to truly listen to what is being said.

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