The Best Strategies for Effective Communication

Actively Listening to your Child

Communicating with our children can be a difficult task at times. We feel like they’re not listening to us; they feel like we’re not listening to them. Good listening and communications skills are essential to successful parenting. Your child’s feelings, views and opinions have worth, and you should make sure you take the time to sit down and listen openly and discuss them honestly.

It seems to be a natural tendency to react rather than to respond. We pass judgment based on our own feelings and experiences. However, responding means being receptive to our child’s feelings and emotions and allowing them to express themselves openly and honestly without fear of repercussion from us.

By reacting, we send our child the message that their feelings and opinions are invalid. But by responding and asking questions about why the child feels that way, it opens a dialog that allows them to discuss their feelings further, and allows you a better understanding of where they’re coming from. Responding also gives you an opportunity to work out a solution or a plan of action with your child that perhaps they would not have come up with on their own. Your child will also appreciate the fact that maybe you do indeed understand how they feel.

It’s crucial in these situations to give your child your full and undivided attention. Put down your newspaper, stop doing dishes, or turn off the television so you can hear the full situation and make eye contact with your child. Keep calm, be inquisitive, and afterwards offer potential solutions to the problem.

Don’t discourage your child from feeling upset, angry, or frustrated. Our initial instinct may be to say or do something to steer our child away from it, but this can be a detrimental tactic. Again, listen to your child, ask questions to find out why they are feeling that way, and then offer potential solutions to alleviate the bad feeling.

Just as we do, our children have feelings and experience difficult situations. By actively listening and participating with our child as they talk about it, it demonstrates to them that we do care, we want to help and we have similar experiences of our own that they can draw from. Remember, respond – don’t react.

Align:start hi I’m Cheryl Jackson welcome to your voice today we’re talking about how to talk to your kids it sounds so basic and you’re probably thinking I talk to my children all the time so no problem right but are you communicating effectively do you feel sometimes that you’re talking at your child instead of with is it sometimes like pulling teeth to get the information you need and when you challenge your kids on this do they tell you it’s because you don’t listen anyway if this sounds like some of the conversations that go on in your household don’t panic it happens to all of us but we can learn to talk to each other in a way that is open honest respectful and gets results I’m joined by two people in studio who can help us get there Jennifer killari is a Child and Family Therapist and author of connected parenting transform your challenging child and build loving bonds for life also in studio is Catherine wakeland she’s a professional facilitator a consultant and author of the book talk about anything with your kids an easy guide to great conversations welcome to both of you thank you for being here today now before we get started you both have children right so I’m assuming what we’re talking about has been home tested Oh true yeah okay okay so we have confidence in this why is it so hard to talk to our kids sometimes you know I think sometimes our own agenda really gets in the way so if our children are upset with us or they’re feeling sad about something it’s hard for us to hear those things so we fix and we try to solve the problem too quickly and then our child experiences that we’re not listening to them we’re not giving them that moment to really stay with their feelings so mm-hmm well the other thing you have to remember too is that we expect our children to grow and develop and change over the years but not many parents expect that they’re going to have to do the same and the way we communicate needs to evolve over the years one of the most common problems Catherine that parents face in their communication with their kids when I get stuck in a style I like to say when parents have a baby a very young baby it’s like a monarch phase the child is gazes but then with that loving look and everything they said they say goes that is the best it’s the best they’re in total control and it really doesn’t last very long as soon as that child starts speaking a little bit parents tend to move into what I’d like to call the dictator phase and again it’s not a bad thing it’s just the way it is we have to teach our children and keep them safe and we’re constantly telling them do this don’t do that it’s time for this go to bed now eat this don’t touch that you’ll get hurt and we’re constantly issuing instructions and parents tend to get stuck in that dictator phase but kids continue to grow and develop and they develop ideas of their own and they have thoughts and experiences that the parents don’t know about and then they hit a time when they need their parents to take a more facilitative approach well why do parents get stuck there because it always II didn’t y’see it’s what it’s very effective with toddlers and small Hoffman you know you say don’t do that and it it works to a point but at point where you start to get conflict where kids start to push back because that can start really early can start that can start when that one absolutely as soon as they have an opinion something’s not working they’ll let you know either if they don’t have language to let you know with tantrums with crying behaviors of communication it’s so interesting what you’re saying about babies because when I talk to parents about a technique called the calm technique which is what I teach parents to help them communicate is when you have an infant what happens is when you interact with that baby and you’re saying oh my goodness look at you there are neural pathways forming in the brain and the infant brain uses the adult brain to regulate itself and to get organized so without an adult brain the brain won’t develop at all right it’s quite a natural thing to be very in tuned in to called mirroring we are our babies and then around language acquisition we start to tell them what to do and then what they’re thinking and what they’re feeling isn’t necessarily what we do so why do we lose that at some point then or what or do we I think it’s natural I think when language becomes a primary way that children communicate we tend to use language to communicate back and it’s all about message delivery so if let’s say your babies come out of the bath and they’re freezing cold and there’s four months old you’re not gonna say oh you’re fine cut it out you’ll be okay you’re gonna say oh my goodness look at you you’re bold when your two-year-old gets out of the bath and is screaming I don’t want to uncle say you’re fine here you go huh here’s a towel you’re gonna be okay but they’re feeling like they’re not going to be okay right sending a message and we’re not hearing the same message so we bounce back a different message do we expect them to be able to we do they do we expect them to be able to listen to us say you’re okay and then they’ll absolutely open up that but we think about it if when we’re upset right when we’ve had a terrible day and we go home to our spouse and say oh you won’t believe what happened today this person did that if our spouse is saying things like well that’s nothing Wiggly hear what happened to me or why don’t you just do this or that we’re left with a feeling of oh well that’s not okay well Catherine how do we know when we’re making mistakes as parents in our communication but you know we’ve got the best feedback mechanism would you roll their eyes waiting back from the kids I to say the first shock for a parent is the first time before children even have language they turn their head away from the spoon of stream peace mm-hmm you know that first act of defiance it’s usually shocking and then also as a toddler the first time that that defiant full stance fist it fulfills did know it too what we say is shocking to parents but they’re those are very obvious signals but there are lots of subtle ones and when your child starts arguing with you more and pushing back it’s a sure sign that the communication isn’t balanced sufficiently for the child all right well how do we start improving our conversations with our kids well the first thing I like to say to parents is coming out of the dictator phase it’s a lot of talking and a lot of listening you know a lot of observing of your child but not necessarily a lot of listening so parents have to develop have to learn to give their children a voice just like the shows called your voice are trying to give our children a voice it’s not a lot of parents push back and say well if we give them too many choices we’ll never you know get out the door we’re not saying give them age inappropriate choices but give them age-appropriate choices so they feel they have a say in things and then the parent has to be willing to let their child negotiate I think that’s one of the most underrated skills we can teach our kids is how to negotiate things right well now you come at this from a facilitator point of view right is right you worked with adults or you still do and still do right how does that transfer to kids then is it the same as being in a board room or you know the issues are the same people often have me come into a group that’s working on something very difficult it could be a merger a project that’s gone off the rails and the issues are the same you can see all of the dysfunctions in the group are the same in the home when people start not behaving well in meetings start pushing back start being very argumentative being passive-aggressive pulling back it’s all the same thing it all comes back to a desire to be heard and understood and with people adults and children alike don’t feel that they’re being heard or understood they start to show signs okay signs may be a little different but the underlying cause right she’s the same all right now Jennifer you talk in your book and I know when you practice a lot of a mirroring hmm can you describe what that is and how that fits in so well and mirroring is really it’s a therapy technique actually it’s not really a parenting technique at all it’s a bit counterintuitive because when someone’s angry or when someone’s upset you feel like you should be talking talking them out of it or you feel like you should be making them feel bad or true but what happens is they keep sending the same message I’m upset that this is happening if we send the message back oh but it’s going to be okay we’ll fix it for you they’re still not able to get that message out so it really has to do with empathy it has to do with really deeply listening and showing real compassion can it give me some examples absolutely understand let’s take a little one who doesn’t want to put a raincoat on here’s a classic so it usually goes something like this sweetie put your raincoat on now no I don’t wanna go Marian caught on and we say honey put your raincoat on please no I’m not putting it on and let’s say we have to have the raincoat on because obviously should be Patriot battles but let’s say you’ve decided they have to wear and we start saying put it on or I’ll count to three or why do you always do this to me and you’re running around trying to get her into the raincoat as you’re running chasing around the house that’s usually how that goes and it usually escalates she has an agenda I’m not wearing that you have an agenda yes you are right and off it goes right so if you were to mirror that you would take a second you take a breath and you go you know what raincoats are bunchy and they’re hot and they don’t feel very good and I give four years old and you feel like you should be making your own decisions suddenly reading this you’re getting nodding and what’s really interesting is about 85 to 90 percent of it if you mirror properly it will defuse the child right away in fact little opiates and endorphins release in the brain when you mirror properly it almost sounds like a door is being it’s like a flood Glade is being opened so that’s a continuing hurt exactly what what is that something you can learn or is this something that you you are sort of naturally good at or not you can absolutely learn it I teach it to parents all the time and it’s very I mean it takes some practice it certainly sounds simple but when you practice it you’ll find that it’s you know it’s a little more conflict all right I very powerful I think most parents do though when they want to start a conversation with your kids they ask a question yeah I mean I know how was your day today or you know what did you do at school today those sorts of things does that work Catherine I’ll ask you first I get a lot of questions about the after school question how was school right fine or they’ll say something negative and it’s usually the same response to that question and I say that’s a bad question because that’s equivalent to how are you which is basically a form of hi how you doing Yeah right there’s just no response other than fine or lousy it’s a one-word question so it’s not a good question and I’m often kids when they come home from school it’s probably one of the worst times to ask them how their day was they need to come in and wind down just like adults do the last thing you do when you get home is want to start talking a lot we make a little wine downtime so I think it’s better to ask more specific questions you know of your child depending on their age write about something specific that you know is happening at school or about one of their friends there you’ll haven’t heard you talk about Bobby for a while right what is he up to these days okay which forces them to give you an answer that they can flush it yeah I’ll give you one quick example and then we’ll go to a question from a parent but when my son was young and maybe grade one or two I would say do you have any homework at the end of the day and he’d say that’s the wrong question to ask he’d say the question is what homework do I have because he had homework every night so he was very annoyed by the question actually and if I found a way to ask it properly he would answer me that’s a better way to do that is around the dinner table sure it does ask the kids just as you’re eating and casually to not you know eyeballing them and just right you know especially younger kids you know what was the best thing that happened today that’s the worst thing that happened today all right and that’s going to give you great information a little part you don’t Haribo alright well we sent our producer Karen out to ask parents if they had any questions for you on our show and we heard something from one mom so let’s have a listen hi my name is Andrea and I have a son Nicholas and he’s in grade six and every day he comes home from school and I ask him how was your day at school and basically I just can’t oh it was good and I’m trying to break through that and I need a little bit more information from him women asking and I’m asking you how can I do that how can i facilitate that any better all right and I think that mother/son is a bit older I don’t think he’s that young but could you give me some specific questions she might ask one of the things we tend to do is we machine gun question what’s it how much today what’s going on what’s happening and when someone that talks to you like that it makes you back up and older children often give you the half answer the Oh like they can’t even be bothered making words come on right now so I mean the best thing to do if you’ve been doing that a lot and your child is not answering just say you know every day I ask you how school is and every day say it’s fine and I just feel like I’m not answering the question right I’m not asking the question probably what how can we how can we start a conversation so I can hear more about what’s going on your life because I love you and just see what happens then just sort of more open-ended and more from an um an empathy point of view versus an information-gathering vation okay and I’d say for any parent you think through a little bit what do you really want to know do you want to know if they’re struggling with the subject do you want to know if it’s a child has developing friends or has social problems or if there’s bullying the school if their issues what are you really after and understanding what you want to know allows you to frame a question in a better way so if you think they might be struggling with a subject and you don’t know about it well how about asking a question like God you know what subject is toughest this year and and then they’ll say oh it’s it’s science and then you can say well well why is that is it the teacher what are you studying right what are you finding tough about it and then you can delve into really what you want to know so if it’s everything over time again I wouldn’t do it all in one night but think about what you really want to know about your child’s day and find a way to ask probing questions to get to that all right should add to that what’s really important is and it’s important to know why you’re asking the question but sometimes if your agenda is driving the questions kids are so smart I know where you’re going with those a line of questioning so you really want to make sure you’re also checking your Jenna and being really empathic and and taking it from the point of view I want to understand my child I really want to understand it sounds like honest as well I’m both of you were saying you know if you want to know about something specific answers so far they try to get around it um in terms of when is the right time to talk to your children you said probably after school isn’t the best time to drive home some of these question the car is sometimes in the aisle you know what’s a great conversation about a car well the kids talk more in the car for some reason I don’t know why unless those friends in the backseat why do I they talk in the car because you’re not looking at them that’s a people that’s eyes are good for to be comfortable we do a facilitated as we use a flipchart yes to record things mm-hmm also to prove we’ve heard but the other thing you’ll find is that people will talk to the chart instead of looking at me in the eye and it’s much more comfortable if they’re talking about something that’s a bit difficult in the car your eyes are not looking into the eyes of your touch interesting and they it’s a little bit safer environment and that’s why especially the older children hey start time time is a wonderful time okay kids all right what about dinner time I know we try to eat dinner together every night but I actually don’t feel like it’s a great time to sometimes bring up things that might be a little bit dicey is it or isn’t it late it’s miss lovely to have positive pleasant conversations the more positivity goes around with eating and that for a time I think is important but it’s often not a time where kids want to talk about difficult things or they’re embarrassed because their siblings are there and it may not be a time to really get into too many too many issues keep it light keep it open-ended what’s funny today tell me something hilarious that happened just so sure that when topics are difficult you know maybe something has happened at school or there’s an issue with a friend or I mean it could be countless things how do you get your child to participate in a conversation they know is probably going to be on Verizon well the only really only way you’re going to do that is by being a good listener if you’re not being a good listener they’re not going to talk to you if they sense too strong an agenda on your part they’re going to close down so if it’s coming from an empathic place and you really want to understand them they’ll talk to you and you have to sort of you know openly it’ll be open-ended I guess you don’t wanna answer ask questions they can answer yes or no to and then just really give them show them that you’re working you’re working hard in that conversation there’s nothing more that you want than to understand their point of view and that’s absolutely delicious feeling it’s a wonderful feeling and I couldn’t agree more I’ve run focus groups with kids asking them two simple questions what do you or and do you not like about how your parents talk to you and what do you and do you not like about what your parents listen to you if you could change one thing what would it be and if that thing changed how would your life change in an almost every case the dominating thing that could say is they can’t get their parents undivided attention so they’re competing their parents doing the dishes or saying I’ll talk later or they can’t get the full attention of their parents so their parents are kind of listening you know we say people do things off the side of their desk parents are listening off the side of their desk and children take that very seriously what we say is almost less important than how we behave in our actions the observation of what we do and how we act is so critical so if how we’re acting is I really don’t have any time to listen to what you say it won’t be long before that child turns to their peers for their primary listening audience and once that starts it’s hard to get it back the other flip side to that is if you’re over listening like this yeah that’s wrong it wasn’t a something wrong then they’re gonna be like whoa okay mom is either too upset or she’s not going to be able to handle what I have to tell her so they either protect the parent or that it’s just adds to the how overwhelmed they’re feeling so you really have to have a caring but neutral stance in a way right but what if your conversate what if it’s not neutral what if you have something that you need your child to do or change in their behavior or at school something like that and you know that you have a direction that your child’s so that you really want them to follow so I teach something called the calm technique which is really how to use the mirroring technique in a conversation so the first thing you do is you look at them and you focus and you look at them and you put everything down that’s around you and then you match their effect this is a this is a very very important thing so there’s actively ineffective listening that’s out there and that’s when you say you know it must be very difficult for you or it sounds like that must be hard that’s an okay technique there’s nothing wrong with that but when it has those Observatory words kids go oh she’s trying to figure something out here she thinks she knows something about how I’m feeling so you really want to match their effect so let’s say your child comes home and they’ve been bullied and they’re really upset about or they or they’re angry with you because you’ve asked them to do something that they don’t want to do get off the computer or something you have to match the ref I can say you’re having a great time on this game you love this game you’re at level six it took you forever to get there I totally get why you want to stay on this computer but you know what sweetie here’s the problem so you start with matching their effect and the urgency of the message that they’re giving you and once you do that it’s remarkable how quickly they will calm down and you really don’t need to follow your child around into a therapy session it’s two or three statements that are really impact like that and often they’ll say okay well what do you want me to do or they’ll do it don’t so easy it does it does actually it’s hard to do but it’s remarkable how quickly it’s very diffusing though okay right and all right we’re gonna do it Katherine what about you what when when do you think the conversation is over I mean as a parent when you’ve you know you’ve listened let’s say you’ve listened and you’ve made a decision is that okay it can be okay it’s very dependent on on the situation in the age of the child I like to say if the parent is showing that they’re listening like I say our hearts listen better than our ears do if you’re trying to understand your child and not just try to get what you want done that there’s a balance again acknowledging see I understand that you don’t mind that your room is a disaster but however I need you to understand that I do mind so instead of saying you have to do what I want say how can we meet in the middle there’s got to be something that makes us both satisfied with the situation so what ideas have you got you know tell me what some ideas you may have and then that allows you to negotiate there has especially as your children get older they really enjoy the negotiation process in fact I always tell adults who are into sales if you really want to learn negotiation well take a tile to a toy store you know then watch a master at work but in the home you’re going to give your child a voice in the OP and some options parents often come in and we’re tired and we’re also not in our best at the end of the day and this is when a lot of conflict happens at the end of the day so yes there’s backpacks and shoes everywhere and they’re in my way and it’s irritating me but does it have to be all about the fact that I want them clear to wait right this instant I’ve taught my kids or I’ll say okay there’s stuff everywhere and it’s really bugging me so you can do it now or you can do it in half an hour mmm either ones fine with me I just need to know which one it is and they always choose the later one but that’s fine when a half an hour is up I’ll go hey remember our deal right you know and they’ll say oh you know okay we’ll do it because I agreed to it earlier okay oh did you want to very quickly yeah so I’m just gonna make a point that sometimes when you when you’ve started your done this mirroring and you’ve listened and you’ve heard them and they’re still digging their heels in and they won’t do it after you’ve listened well it’s okay to say to them you know I’ve tried really hard to understand this I really have and I totally get it but you know what honey it’s now a problem so you either do this or this is the consequence it’s okay to set those limits and children need limits right just how you deliver it okay you say it all right that’s interesting now we have another clip from a mom and I think this question is very interesting so let’s listen to what she has to say hi I’m Nancy I’m a mom of two boys and my question is for about communicating with your children I’d really like to know how one can communicate with boys once they get past a certain age because I know that they tend to pull away and don’t want to talk to you their mom but I’d like to know how I can keep that communication going throughout some time okay so art is there a difference in the way boys talk and listen there is in fact boys go into that sort of caveman stage and make when we grab a cola and that’s when they’ll often answer ooh but they can’t even make a sentence in those moments again it’s really important to find out what they love and what they enjoy if you want to make your boys happy if you want to connect with them sit down with the table and when they’re playing a video game sit down with side them and say hey I didn’t know you were on this level I’ve never actually taken the time to see what this game is about and talk about it and see how excited they get by that and you don’t have to necessarily work about having to worry about having big long conversations with your kids that puts too much pressure on the parent and too much pressure on the child if you have little moments with it there’s been a lovely connection and they walk away going oh well that felt kind of good then they’re going to be much more likely to come back and it could be something very simple let’s say they open the fridge and go ah there’s no chocolate milk so instead of saying well I wanted you to the shopping then you can say oh you know what I hate that too when you open the fridge and you expect there’s something there it’s not there right then you walk away just this lovely little moment where you you got each other okay and that that’s enough to turn it around to well to build on that okay and that’s that’s the same for kids of all ages short little bursts if they think they’re going to get a big talk every time that you’re you’re sitting down they’re going to stay away from talking to you right these short little connections are really what are powerful and with boys they still want to be connected to their parents but they don’t want it to show so you just have to know that they don’t they don’t want to be seen with you at the mall they don’t want to do it they’re you know they may not want to do it much at home but when they’re tired there’ll be little moments where you can connect and parents to just grab ahold of those but it has to be on their terms and our teenagers are so different than we were as teenagers it’s a whole different game that you need to learn how to my husband is adamant against texting and I keep telling myself you know by the time you are our children are in your teens that you’re losing or your children they’re 12 al-khattab real twins right so they’re he’s gonna lose a communication option yeah with our children which works for them and I said you’re gonna have to adopt a little bit alright a Catherine how does communicating well with our children within our families if we can get that right how does that help them when they’re out outside the family you know in school for instance or with their friends or in their community oh it is the foundational skill I think it’s the it’s the foundation of parenting and it’s the foundation of anything our children might do the better they are at communicating they tend to become more articulate if they’re good listeners and believe me listening is a skill that is in decline if we can teach our children to be good listeners it’s going to help them in every aspect of their lives absolutely and what we know now – about the parenting relationship is that it builds resilience so the closer children are to their parents the more oriented they are to the to their parents the less they’ll look to their peers for guidance is important to have healthy friendships and relationships with peers but it’s you want your children to be oriented to you and when they’re strongly oriented to you that’s very protective in terms of drug abuse alcohol abuse you know sexual activity helping kids to make good choices that all comes from having a very strong and solid relationship with a predictable and caring caregiver and that’s why listening at a young age is so important the child needs to feel well if I have something important to say my parent my mother my father are going to give me that time so then when they’re 16 when it’s their job to start pulling away with something important comes up they still have that connection back and saying I still need to talk to you here it gives them terrific social skills with their peers because if they’re a child that’s listened to they will develop more empathy okay I have much stronger social skills with their own peers okay and I’m assuming it would help them with their teachers as well oh I mean certainly there must be some negotiation that goes on there sometimes think of it as it just thickens their skin just gives them that armor that they need so when they get kicked out of the sandbox or when they don’t get invited to a party they go well no that didn’t feel very good but I’m okay I’m so loved I’m so understood I’m so heard that I’m okay and I don’t know what more you could want for your children really than to have that level of resilience well and it’s teachers notice to children who have a good connection with their parents the teachers can tell you they can pick out the kids in the class who have that what do they see they just see they can tell that that the children is adjusted yeah calm smack the chins up they just seem to be able to take things on the chin a little bit and handle it there they’re better at presentations especially when a child is expected to take questions from the class you know they’re very open to that because they’re used to being asked questions and listening they’ve seen that modeled so now they can use it in the class they’re good at asking they tend to ask teachers more question I also saw parents to think oh gosh I haven’t been listening to my children well my gosh it’s never too late it’s never too and it really has to do with with neuroplasticity it actually has to do with the brain the more you feel listened to the more your brain the circuitry of your brain adapts itself to a positive life to positive experiences and the better you are coping the more you live in an environment where there is fighting and screaming and you’re not hurt and you’re not listened to and you’re anxious the more the brain adapts to that so there really is such motivation to make sure that you’re giving these kids your children this experience and it’s just so much better for you as a parent as well but you can’t you can get angry I mean it’s not I mean it’s not a perfect parenting and the lovely part is you can go back and repair so if you did argue with him yeah put your raincoat on I don’t care and you end up in a big fight you can go back and say oh I remember this morning when I made you put that coat on and you really don’t want to you can go back and do okay that is that’s our last word thank you for that very very reassuring my guests have been Jennifer kalari and Catherine wakeland for more information on how to talk to your kids articles links and blogs please go to tea do parents comm click on your voice and the show topic on our site you’ll also find a list of upcoming shows so if you have a question for one of them send it in we’ll get it to our experts and if you have a show idea send that in too we always want to hear from you I’m Cheryl Jackson thanks for watching you

As found on Youtube

>> Positive communication with our children helps them develop in a healthy way and strengthens our bond with them. >> Parents can really kind of tune in to what their kids are saying to kind of build those communication skills, help their children build language skills, and by saying, you know, what are — what did you say, and repeating back what the kids said and reflecting on that emotion that kids are expressing. >> There are four steps for communicating positively with your child. Step One, praise. Use praise to help your child know what you’d like them to do. Be clear and specific with your praise. Instead of good job, say good job putting away your toys. >> Great job putting your toys away, Jenny. It’s very, very important as a parent to be conscious as much as possible of what your kids are doing; that you’re checking in on them enough; that there’s opportunities to acknowledge what they’re doing that it’s good.

>> Step Two, imitation. You can copy or imitate the things your child is doing that you want them to keep doing. This shows your child that you are paying attention to them and interested in what they are doing. When copying and imitating, make sure you do the things the way your child does. Do not try to do things better or faster than your child. >> Then they see that you’ve recognized that they’re doing something that you’re also doing. Wow. Mommy likes that. Mommy likes to play with my dolls too. So that must be something good that I’m doing. I’m going to do that again in the future. >> Step Three, description. Describing or talking about what your child is doing while they play shows your child you are noticing their good behavior. You can act like a sportscaster who is telling people what is happening in a game. You are putting the red block on the green block and making a tall tower.

Step Four, active listening. Giving your child your full attention when you are playing and talking with them can help build your relationship. At least once a day try to really focus on being with your child. Try to decrease distractions, like cell phones, so you can give her your full attention. One way to actively listen is to talk about what your child is doing or to repeat what your child says. You can also add more detail to encourage them to talk to you more. For example, your child may say I colored it, but with active listening you may add to that and say yes, you colored her dress blue and red. Active listening can also help children name their feelings. For example, if your child is crying and says she’s not happy, you may say you seem unhappy and sad.

Playtime is a great time to practice praise, imitation, description and active listening. You can also use these skills any time you are with your child; at dinner, in the car, and when giving a bath..

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