How to Talk to Kids Like People
by Susie E. Caron © 9/27/15
“Don’t talk to children as if they are children. Talk to them as people.”
I was so embarrassed...
During my internship in elementary education, one of my supervisors overheard me speaking to a small child. The child had asked me for help and I’d given her detailed instructions. As soon as I’d finished, the supervisor pulled me aside and said, “Don’t speak to children as if they are children. Talk to them as people.” My cheeks flushed with embarrassment. I hadn’t meant to sound as though I felt smarter and better than the little child I’d spoken to, but apparently that’s how I sounded. It never occurred to me that the way I spoke to kids mattered. I asked her some questions about this. My supervisor helped me to understand that the way kids are spoken to makes a difference in how they approach tasks and how they feel about themselves now and in the future. This is something I never forgot but how could I change? First I needed to reassess something.
What were my goals for the kids?
I wanted the kids to grow up feeling strong, smart, able and capable to tackle whatever life handed them. But I discovered that kids are affected by more than just our words. They read our attitudes and intentions loud and clear and it affects how they feel about themselves. For example, if I spoke to kids as though I am better than they are, then my superiority makes them feel small, inadequate, or incapable of properly doing things without my help.
How could I change?
Now I had a problem. I had to figure out how to change the way I talked to children? What would it sound like to speak to kids as just people? I thought about the others in my life. I wondered, how do I talk to my friends, my instructors, my fiancé and my parents? To my friends I spoke in a kind of matter of fact, friendly way. I was more serious and conscious of my words when I talked with college professors and instructors. My fiancé and I enjoyed fun filled and intimate conversations. I laughed when I thought about my parents, because when we spoke, I was either trying impress them with my accomplishments or assure them of my safety. So I wondered, how do I want to talk to kids?
“I will speak to children the same way I wanted to be spoken to by them.”
I would no longer:
Instead I would let Kids know I respected them and their efforts.
I would talk so that:
In other words,
In my mind they each child became unique, an individual worthy of my time, and respect. I talked with kids as real people, with thoughts, feelings, and abilities all their own.
Were there any benefits?
I noticed that the way I spoke to children became the way they thought about themselves. The results I’ve witnessed have been phenomenal: respectful kids, a love of learning, warm parent-child connections and interactions, good communication and a desire to succeed in their area of interest. The kids showed me that when they felt good about themselves they also responded better to others, and to the challenges in front of them.
How do you talk with kids?
If you have read this far, you may be considering how you might change some of the ways you talk with kids. Would you like to enjoy these benefits: more respect, eagerness to learn, positive engagement, conversations and fun with kids? If so, make this your motto:
“I will speak with children in the same way I want them to speak to me."
The benefits can last a lifetime.
Thank you for taking time to read my article.
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Twee’ means you and me,
Working together to build great kids.
Susie E. Caron MA,
Author, Blogger, Podcaster,
Christian, Wife, & Mother, helps build parent-child relationships, 1 blog, book & podcast at a time.
Welcome! I recently retired from combined careers in teaching, psychotherapy, and parent coaching to spend more time writing.
When I'm not busy creating books or articles, you might find me looking for dark chocolate or riding my beautiful horse Apple in the woods and fields of Vermont.
These articles are for educational and self-help purposes only and are not intended as psychotherapy.
If you experience unusual symptoms or discomfort please see your medical or mental health practitioner.
No patent liability is assumed for use of the information contained. The author disclaims any responsibility for loss or risk for use or application of this material.
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Blog Reviews & Thank You!
July 13 at 7:17pm ·
Just wanted to say that I love your posts about the different ways to connect/relate/understand your child. It has given me a new approach towards understanding my daughter and allowing HER to tell me how she feels instead of me suggesting to her how she should feel. Thanks Susie!