FAMILY MATTERS By Mary Migliaro, M.Ed., Educator and Parent Mentor
In their book, How to Talk so Kids Will Listen & Listen so Kids Will Talk, authors Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish take
readers through important techniques parents can use to ensure good communication with their
children. These internationally acclaimed experts on communication between parents and children, provide
time-tested methods to solve common problems and build foundations for lasting
For parents to demonstrate their love and concern for their children, they must create an environment that allows for
good dialogue with their kids. Good communication also assists parents
in knowing what their children are doing and how they are feeling.
In general, here are a few basic principles for creating this type of open communication:
1. Set aside time for talking and listening to each other. Family meals can be a great time to do this.
2. Let your child know that you are interested and involved and that you will help when needed.
3. Turn off the television and put your cell phone down when your child wants to converse.
4. Avoid taking a telephone call when he has something important to tell you.
5. Don’t tower over your child. Physically get down to her level then talk.
6. If you are very tired, you will have to make an extra effort to be an active listener.
Tune in to what your child’s body language is telling you and try to respond to non-verbal mes- sages too – for
‘You’re very quiet this afternoon. Did something happen at school?’.
Work together to solve problems. For example, if your child likes to change his clothes several
times a day, you could agree that he puts away the clothes he’s no longer wearing. And remember
that you might not always be able to resolve an issue straight away, but you can come back to it
When your child has something important to say, or has strong feelings or a problem, it’s import-
ant for her to feel that you’re really listening. Try these tips for active listening:
- ● Build on what your child is telling you and show your interest by saying things like ‘Tell
me more about …’, ‘Really!’ and ‘Go on
…’. This sends your child the message that what he has to say is important to you.
● Watch your child’s facial expressions and body language. Listening isn’t just about hearing words, but also about
trying to understand what’s behind those words.
● Repeat back what your child has said and make lots of eye contact.
● Try not to jump in, cut your child off, or put words in his
mouth – even when he says something that sounds ridiculous or wrong or is having trouble finding the words.
● Don’t rush into problem-solving. Your child might just want you to listen, and to feel that her feelings and point
of view matter to someone.
● Ask your child open-ended questions. Questions that require a yes or no answer lead a conversation to a
dead end. Instead of, “Did you have a good day at school?” ask “Tell me about something fun you did
at school today.”
● Observe signs. When a child begins to stare into space, give silly responses, or ask you to repeat several of your
comments, it is probably time to stop the exchange.
● Use interesting conversation starters like:○ Is there anything you are afraid of? Tell me about it.
○ Describe the happiest day of your life so far?
○ If you could change one thing about yourself what would you change?
○ Who is your best friend? Why are they your best friend?
Establishing good lines of communication be- tween you and your kids will enhance your bond with
them. Having regular conversations with them now will ensure that when more serious issues come
up, your kids will want to talk with you about it.