Mother and Child Communicating, Renee Naturally
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Communicating With Your Child

I recently read an article about a Mum with two boys under 5 years of age who decided to remove the word ‘Okay’ from regular vocabulary with her children. Her reasoning for this was that we are continuously telling children ‘You’re okay’ and ‘It’s okay’ and by doing this we are not giving the child the opportunity to decide on his or her own feelings. We are essentially telling the child how to feel. Now I am in no way a fan of wrapping children in cotton wool,  but what I liked about this woman’s new approach was her follow on, instead of saying ‘It’s okay’ she was going to say exactly what had happened i.e. ‘You spilt your water’ or ‘You’ve fallen down’, giving the child an understanding of what had just happened and allowing them time to process it, feel his/her own emotions and hopefully self-settle.

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It’s common knowledge that children will play up to an injury or incident due to the reaction from a parent or caregiver. Often in their ‘alone time’, you can see a child have an accident or hurt themselves, fall down, lose their ball, whatever it may be and because they think no one is around, they self-settle. But add an adult to the mix, especially if they know that a lost ball will generate a reaction of ‘Oh Tommy, you poor thing, you lost your ball’ and it’s an all-out performance of the grandest scale! This is due to the way we have communicated with our children when managing a difficult situation.

I had the honour of step-parenting a wonderful boy named Connor who I will often refer to as the lessons learned from my time with him taught me more than 10+ years in childcare centres and nannying! If Connor  knew there was a possible reaction to be found, he would act out. Likewise, due to his challenging behaviour and tantrum style, it was difficult for all parties involved in his upbringing to put a real focus on effective communication because his reactions were so dramatic, so loud and so intense. But, with a bit of research, a lot of focus and a tremendous amount of patience combined with follow-through, changing the way we communicated with Connor brought only successes in his behaviour, his outbursts & tantrums… and best of all,  with the way he communicated with us! Was it exhausting? Yes! Did the sound of my own voice and the carefully chosen repetitive sentences cause ‘nails on a chalkboard’ sort of feelings? Yes! Were there times (especially when in public and having a mega meltdown take place) that I wanted to resort to the easy or automatic communication style? Yes! But we persevered and saw an amazing change in a boy who was just struggling with processing his emotions and experiences and trying to understand the way in which people communicated with him.

So what words and language do you use with your children, both consciously and unconsciously? By reading this article, has it helped you to identify patterns forming, repetitive phrases or words you use? And do you think that some of your own communication may need to be changed for the benefit of your child/ren?

“Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs”. --Pearl Strachan

I have spent a lot of time researching effective communication techniques for each age and stage, both to provide coaching and advice to my nannies in a professional capacity and for my personal interest with parenting Connor. Below are some of the helpful articles I’ve found on how to communicate with your child:

Magic Words – 10 Ways to Help Communication With Your Toddler is one of my favourite articles on communication techniques for the toddler age group, reiterating our point about  being too quick to offer solutions instead of asking questions and encouraging the idea of facilitating peaceful decision-making.

Tell Me About Your Day, Darling gives one or two tips from a retired childhood educator, including the useful (and easy to remember) 'Tell me' technique. An oldie but a goodie, especially for our 6 – 10 year olds.

How to Communicate Effectively with Preschoolers discusses giving your preschooler full attention, watching your body language, and tuning in to your child’s emotions. I really appreciated the second suggestion in this article, “Reflect your child’s unspoken emotions”. This helps put your child’s feelings into words. If your child didn’t get a turn at the playground, you might say, ‘You wanted to play with the ball next, didn’t you?’ or ‘I can see you feel really cranky!”

How You Communicate With Your School Aged Child suggests time, listening, respect and persistence are the key factors here.

And for another suggestion on a new phrase to add to your vocabulary, rather than take away from, watch the wonderful Amy MCCready from Positive Parenting Solutions.

Geva x


A great article Geva. I see this with my step grand daughter. Her parents don't react straight away to a fall and sure enough after a while....self settle. I recall being at the doctor with my son when he was about 2 years old. Some piece of food stuck in his tooth and my first response was to try to get it out for him . The doctor told me off....let him try himself!

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