How to Communicate With Your Child

Once upon a time, I read a story that has stayed with me until now.

It goes, more or less, like this:

Two young boys were playing happily up in a tree. Hanging on a tree branch a few feet off the ground, they were blissfully unaware of the danger they were in. Then, the mother of one boy saw him holding precariously on the tree branch. Panicking, she shouted, “Don’t let go.” And of course, he let go. Meanwhile, the father of the other boy, though alarmed, just said, “Hold properly.” And the boy held on to the branch until his father brought him down safely.

Although the story has taken roots in my brain, I still find myself saying “Don’t” and “No” too many times. “Don’t pull the cat’s tail. Don’t wipe your mouth with your hands. Don’t scratch your eyes. Don’t draw on the wall.” Don’t. Don’t. Don’t.

So, unless you are blessed with a perfect little angel, this is the learning curve all parents have to go through.

I am a believer that what you say and how you say it will affect a person’s thinking, especially in young children.

With my son, a quiet but stern warning has more emphasis than a loud shouting match. And I say warning, not threats. Threats, I feel, do not work and can cause more harm than good.

“If you don’t eat your food, I am not going to cook for you. If you don’t behave, I won’t take you to the playground.” Yet, you still find yourself cooking and taking him to the playground. In the end, he learns about idle threats and that he can get away with anything.

So, what do we say? Well, we’ve all heard it. Talk positively to your child. Encourage him. Motivate him. But how often do we respond correctly or even remember the proper thing to say when it stares at us in the face.

I find this helpful. You can even have printed posters around the house as reminders. Another useful link: Phrases We Should Say to Our Kids.

However, to take it a step further, we should learn the Growth mindset vs Fixed mindset.

[The kids] had completely different goals in school. The number one goal for kids in the fixed mindset is ‘look smart at all times and at all costs.’ So their whole lives are oriented toward avoiding tasks that might show a deficiency.

But in a growth mindset, where they believe intelligence can be developed, their cardinal rule is ‘LEARN at all times and at all costs.’ ~Dr Carol Dweck

Finally, while knowing what to say is important, knowing what NOT to say is just as vital. “You’re stupid. You’re useless. I wish you’d never been born.” All these should never EVER be uttered to anyone, let alone a young impressionable mind. Criticizing and belittling anyone should never be the path to take.

I want to raise a happy, healthy and independent kid. Not a follower who obeys blindly. Don’t you?


Angel is a mother of one and works as a full time editor and writer. She writes on a wide variety of topics in a number of reputable publications.

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