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How to talk to your kids

Published on: December 30, 2013

Why is it so difficult to talk to our kids? Because often, what we say is not what they hear. "Are you wearing that?" can easily translate into: "Wow! She really hates what I'm wearing! She can't believe I'd leave the house like this!"

Sometimes all kids need is for us to validate the way they feel, rather than giving them directives or constantly "fixing" their problems. I spoke about this - along with other topics from Beyond Smart - to faculty, staff and students at the University of Washington yesterday. Here are some of the talking tips I offered:

  • Think before you talk. Before speaking, be aware of what's going on within yourself. How do you feel? Angry? Frustrated? Consider the way your children will react to your words. Use empathy and understanding.
  • Stay away from "never." As in, "I'll never let you do that again." Or "don't you ever." This can frighten younger kids - and can come across as anger.
  • Don't compare. Your child doesn't need to hear that his cousin is a fabulous violinist or his sister gets all A's. All this does is breed resentment - and make kids feel like they won't measure up.
  • Be positive. When things are constantly heard as criticism, you'll build up negative communication. We want to construct more positives with our kids, so that when we do offer some criticism, we have established a relationship that can withstand that.

Find more on this topic in Getting School Ready!

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