5 Quick Lessons to Teach Your Children How to Communicate Better

By Jessica Streit

Life in the 21st century makes it difficult to teach effective communication. Kids are plugged in to television, computers and video games a great deal of their life. Parents are stressed, overwhelmed and lacking in quality time to spend in deep conversation with their children. More times than not, communication is reduced to as few characters as possible. 

With these factors playing against us, it is important, as parents that find teaching moments throughout the day. These teaching moments must include effective communication. When children learn to communicate effectively their relationships improve, as does their behavior and their ability to learn. Here are 5 quick, 5-minute lessons you can use to teach effective communication to your child. 

1. Listening - Before you can communicate well, you must listen well. Teach your children to be effective listeners by requiring that they make eye contact with you when you are speaking (and do the same for them too). Also, request that they cease whatever it is they are doing. Whether it’s coloring, watching television or playing a video game, they should stop what they are doing, make eye contact with you and maintain it while you are speaking.

2. Directions - When you give directions to your children, remind them to show their proper listening skills so they hear what you have to say. Then request they repeat the directions back to you. By requiring them to repeat the directions, you are teaching them that everything you have to say is important.

3. Let Them Speak - Take 5 minutes to listen, really listen to them talk about a topic of their choice. Ask them an open ended question, like “why do you like this?” or “what do you think I should know about it?” Continue to ask questions while you are actively listening. Do not look at your phone or the television, be tuned-in to your child for the entire time. Do this regularly to show how communication should work.

4. Learn to Label - One reason children have temper tantrums is their inability to deal with and recognize their emotions. Give them the tools for labeling the emotions they are feeling and you will find they can communicate better. Begin by simply stating how they must be feeling when they are having a temper tantrum. For example you might say, “I can tell you are very angry.” or “ you must be very sad.” This can be paired nicely with a chart that allows your child to point to the image that best represents what they are feeling. A feelings chart can be made from clip art, your child’s own drawings, or a picture of their face as they express each emotion. It doesn’t matter how you make it but rather, how you use it. Throughout the day, have your child choose the face that best represents how they are feeling. Pair this with a statement: “You are feeling sad.” or “You are feeling nervous.” Eventually ask your child to make the statement as they are pointing. The ability to label your feelings is a skill you need throughout your life, knowing how to do this early on will be very beneficial.

5. Copy Me - Sit with your back to each other and a pile of blocks, Legos or even paper and crayons in front of you. Have your child build or draw something and as they are doing it they must describe what they are doing. The goal is for you to make a duplicate copy of what they are doing. Laugh at the silly creation you make. Discuss what else they could have said to make your copy better. Model by doing the same for them. Have fun with it!

Bonus Tip: Have dinner together as a family as often as possible! Remove all electronics, turn off all ringers, sit down together and eat at the same time. Ask questions and expect full answers.

The most powerful way to teach your children effective communication is to model it for them. Speak without calling others names. Choose your words carefully so as to avoid inappropriate or extremely negative statements. Recognize when you make a mistake and explain to your children why it was wrong to speak the way you do. I chose to not name call in my life. I do not see the benefit of it and I encourage my children to speak so that they are not calling anyone a name (this includes the driver who cut me off on the street today. My choice is to say “wow, he really wasn’t paying attention.” or “oh that person isn’t a very good driver.” instead of calling them an “idiot.). Model effective communication with the restaurant manager after a disappointing meal rather than yelling, speak calmly but firmly why stating your issues.

Not only will your children learn to communicate effectively but you just might improve some of your own skills.

Jessica Streit is an educator, freelance writer and single mom of 2 boys. Her writing can be found on a variety of topics including personal finance, education and parenting. She blogs about overcoming debt and living a royal life on a budget at The Debt Princess.