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Feature Article


Tips on Communicating with Young Children

Nina Chen, Ph.D., CFLE, Human Development Specialist, Jackson County, University of Missouri Extension

One of the most important experiences parents and caregivers can provide for children is to talk with and listen to them. Daily interactions help children learn about themselves, others, and the world.

Researchers suggest that when adults stay in touch with children through conversation and attention, children may be less likely to behave in ways that create conflict or act out. Positive communication with young children helps them develop good communication with others and leads to nurturing relationships, cooperation, and feelings of worth. Here are tips to have effective communication with young children.

  • Talk with children and take the time to listen to them.
  • Show interest in what they say and do.
  • Get the child’s attention before speaking.
  • Communicate on the same level as the child. Stoop down to the child’s level or sit beside her and make eye contact. Let the child know that he or she has your attention.
  • Use more “Do’s” than “Don’ts.” Tell the child what to do instead of what not to do. Children respond quicker to positive demands than negatives.
  • Make requests simple, short, and clear.
  • Make important requests firmly. Use a firm tone of voice without sounding angry or pleading.
  • Give clear and consistent instructions.
  • Using kind, nurturing words and actions help children learn that they are loved and lead to positive self-esteem.
  • Use genuine praise to notice and comment on positive behavior. Avoid the use of false praise, rewards or bribes, such as food, special activities, or stickers to control children’s behavior.

For more information, see Human Environmental Sciences Extension Guide 6123, “Communicating Effectively with Children.” 



Last Updated 05/12/2009


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