The words we use and how we say them make a huge difference to how tamariki respond to us. Communicating with young children can be frustrating at times – At Eduplay Westgate we have lots of tools in our communication toolbox.
Questions to consider.
Do you use your child’s name to get their attention before giving them an instruction?
Do you stop what you’re doing and make eye contact with your child when you talk to them?
What about your tone – are you annoyed or encouraging, or perhaps distracted by something else?
Use Your Child’s Name
Call your child’s name until you have their attention before you speak if you want to know for sure they have heard you.
Connect with your child using eye contact. You may need to get down to their level or sit at the table with them. Not only does it demonstrate good manners, but it also helps you to listen to each other. Say your child’s name until you gain eye contact, especially before giving them a direction. It is important that they give you their attention, and you should model the same behaviour for them.
Try not to interrupt or scold your child when they are telling you a story. Children will lose interest in sharing their feelings with you if you shift away from their story and use the time to teach them a lesson.
What Are You Really Asking?
Sometimes we are happy to give a child a choice – “Do you want to wear shorts or a skirt?”
At other times a child is not being given a choice – “Get into bed now.”
It is important to be clear and not give the impression we are offering a choice when we’re not. This is confusing for children and probably won’t obtain the response we want.
“Should we get ready for bed?” is not the right request unless you are happy for the answer to be “no”.
The I NEED/YOU NEED request
Using “I need you to…” is a very clear way of communicating with a child. They are not being given a choice; they are being given a clear request.
“I need you to get into bed now.”
When Children Make Mistakes
When we observe a child who has made a mistake, or two children having a disagreement it is important not to assume who is to blame. Our language matters in these moments.
Stating what you observe is the best way to find a solution or to resolve the problem. Trying to understand is always better than trying to find out who is to blame.
“I see that you both want to play with the same toy.”
“I see the juice has spilt on the floor.”
“I can see that you are sad.”
With the “I see” statement a child does not feel judged and is more likely to respond by telling you what actually happened rather than avoiding the truth to escape the yucky feeling of blame and judgement.
Another great way to understand what is going on with your child is to simply ask them.
“Tell me about your picture.”
“Tell me about why you feel sad.”
“Tell me about what happened.”
This in as open-ended question that doesn’t assume you already know. It gives your child the opportunity to think it through as they talk to you. Remember not to interrupt when your child is trying to find the right words.
How you speak to your child matters. Your tone, your facial expression, and most of all your words.