Let’s Talk! Communicating With Your Children

Parenting can feel like being in a movie. The same day to day routine? Groundhog Day. Nap time? Mission Impossible. Trying to get through to your three year old? Rush Hour. Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?

Parenting is like a movie. Nap time is Mission Impossible. Click To Tweet

It feels like we’re speaking two totally different languages. We shout, “No!” “Stop!” or “Put that down!” and they hear “Yes!” “Go!” and “Flush that down the toilet!”

Mommy Says: “I have to make a phone call so please be quiet.”
Kid Hears: Try your hardest to make it sound like a circus is marching through the house while someone is slowly killing a cat. – ScaryMommy.com

When kids do actually listen, it’s important for us to be saying the right things.

The New York Times reports that “Children whose families were on welfare heard about 600 words per hour. Working-class children heard 1,200 words per hour, and children from professional families heard 2,100 words. By age 3, a poor child would have heard 30 million fewer words in his home environment than a child from a professional family. ”

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Talking to our children has an impact on their understanding of the structure of language, how well they perform in school, and their self esteem. Studies show that developing your child’s language skills is necessary for communication and literacy, and that we tend to talk to girls more than we do boys. Besides reading to our children daily, we need to talk to them, too.

But how do we get through to them? How can we talk so kids listen? Mom and author Christina Harbridge shares how we can connect with our children at every age.

Guest Blogger Christina Harbridge

What’s the most effective way to communicate with a frustrated toddler?

One way to communicate with a frustrated toddler is to fill their basic need to feel understood in that moment. Instead of calming them down, try matching or exceeding their concern for the problem. Example? “OH NO! You do not like when the peas touch the carrots! And there they are touching on your plate. Tell me more about it honey!”  When I have deployed this strategy at a preschool, parents often say to me “That kid never calms down like that, you must be a kid whisperer.” I’m not. All I did is what I learned in a collection agency, when people are upset, calming them down rarely calms them down. By matching their concern, they more than often become less agitated.

How can you get school age kids to talk about their day?

One way to get kids to talk about their day is to ask more interesting questions. Example: “How was your day?” is not a very interested question. Yawn. Ask questions that lead kids to tell stories, but tell them stories too. “Right after I dropped you off this morning a black squirrel who looked like his name must be Spiderman because of how perfect he was eating his acorn, jumped from that tree right there to that bush right there. Amazing. I decided I was going to be Spiderman all day and make my drab boring meeting a little more interested by drawing on the dry erase board.” What kind of animal where you today and why?” Small kids LOVE stories and will tell you stories if you ask them better questions.

How can you talk to your middle school student without having to text them?

One way to get a middle school student talking is bring up topics they care about. A friend of my son was fairly monosyllabic with me likely because I was the parental unit. I listened to them talking and discovered he was really interested in old coins. I spent 20 minutes and researched some coins and discovered the story about the 1909SVDB penny. The next time he came over I brought it up at dinner. He lit up. Now, he talks about coins with me. Finding something SPECIFIC that the middle schooler cares about is one way to get them talking. Another way is to do something next to them with music on. My son likes to draw so we draw next to each other and he tells me about the lyrics of the song that is on. Conversation is a habit; thus, I do not care what we talk about, just that we talk.


Just talk! Make sure that you’re speaking with your children every day to help their vocabulary–and your relationship grow.

 Christina Harbridge is the founder and MisChief Executive Officer of Allegory, a behavior change company, a mom, and the author of Swayed: How to Communicate for Impact.
Find me here


Tiffani is the wife and mom behind MyMommyVents, co-creator of The Mommy Conference, and co-founder of the digital collective Sisterhued. Her writing and parenting tips have been seen on The Washington Post, Mommy Noire, Yahoo Parenting, and Fit Pregnancy.
Find me here

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