01-12-2015 by 

It's a cliché, but it's true: Kids don't come with an instruction manual. We remember the hurtful things our parents said to us and we swear we'll never say those things to our children, but guess what? Even the most patient, well-meaning parents are bound to say things they regret.

You might as well face it -- you're human and you'll make mistakes. However, it's important to realize that what you say to your kids really does matter. Learning to communicate with your little people helps them develop healthy self-image and increases the chance they will go into the world with respect for themselves and others.

Learning to communicate with your kids makes life a whole lot more pleasant for you -- and for them. Here are some strategies to communicate better with your children:

Strategy 1. Offer Acceptance

When your kids feel accepted, they are more likely to share their feelings with you and they take those communication skills when they go out into the world.

Remember that accepting your children means you acknowledge them (and their feelings) without threatening, lecturing or criticizing. It doesn't mean you approve of everything they do or say.

Strategy 2. Pay Attention

Take a few minutes out of your day to listen to your kids. Don't nod your head and pretend you're listening -- put down what you're doing and give your child your full attention. If you really don't have time, set a time to talk later and stick to it.

Strategy 3. Be Positive

The Children's Administration Office of Child Care Policy advises parents to use "do" words, not "don't" words. For example, say "Please put your pajamas in the drawer," not "Don't throw your pajamas on the floor." Talking to children isn't that much different than talking to adults. Don't be overbearing, demanding or bossy. Try talking to your kids instead of at them. [1]

Strategy 4. No Nagging

According to Psychology Today, the human brain can retain only a few chunks of information at a time -- one or two sentences or 30 seconds of speaking. After that point, you're simply nagging. If you feel like your words are going in one ear and out the other, you're probably right. Keep your messages simple and to the point. [2]

Strategy 5. Apologize

Don't beat yourself up if you slip and say something you regret. Take a second to collect your thoughts, then apologize and learn. What could you have said or done instead? What will you do the next time your kid pushes your button? [3]

Mood Keywords: socialization, children, irritation
1. "Winning Ways to Talk to Children" Washington (State). Department of Social and Health Services. Office of Child Care Policy.  1992. (pamphlet).
2. Greenberg, Melanie, "Worst Mistakes Parents Make When Talking to Kids" Psychology Today http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201209/worst-mistakes-parents-make-when-talking-kids September 18, 2012.
3. "Strategies for Apologizing to Kids" PBS Parents: Talking with Kids. http://www.pbs.org/parents/talkingwithkids/apologize_2.html Accessed December 15, 2014.
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