Articles and Advice

Talking with Young Children

One of the best ways to promote children’s self esteem is through positive interactions and supportive verbal communications. Everyday conversations may seem routine but they have an important impact on children. In fact, the impact is so profound that caregivers should take great care in selecting their words and tone of voice. The following guidelines will help to insure verbal communications that support development of healthy self esteem.

  • Keep language clear and simple.
  • Avoid words that have dual meanings or are not common usage.
  • Pay attention to children when they speak.
  • Avoid trying to focus on several conversations at once.
  • Use words and questions that encourage children to converse.
  • Avoid 'yes' or 'no' questions. For example, try "tell me more" or "what else happened?"
  • Stay positive. Use 'do' more than 'don't'.
  • Phrase requests to communicate the desired behavior. For example, 'you can use these bean bags for throwing practice' rather than 'don't throw the toys.'
  • When communicating with young children, position yourself at the child's eye level.
  • Putting yourself at the child's level communicates respect and helps you to hold the child's attention.
  • Wait for responses to questions before moving the conversation on.
  • Children need a few minutes to formula responses to questions. Remember, true conversations are two-sided.
  • Model polite conversation.
  • Use 'please' and 'thank you' routinely. Children learn a lot through their observations of your conversation style.
  • Encourage dialogue by talking with children and not to them.
  • While talking with children, ask questions, show interest, and comment on the child's responses.
  • Be careful about the amount of time you spend giving directions or engaging in one way, directive communication.
  • Never use unkind words.
  • Any words or phrases that imply ridicule, shaming, name calling, teasing or belittling are not appropriate.
  • Show enthusiasm and enjoyment in conversations.
  • Show children you enjoy talking with them by laughing, smiling and even joking with children.

When you have fun, the children will have fun, too.

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