Parents

Closed-mouth kids? Here's how to get 'em talking

March 2, 2012 at 3:02 PM ET

 
Mom:  “How was your day today?”
Kid: “Good.”
 
“Did you learn anything interesting?”
“Yeah.”
 
“What did you learn?”
“…I don’t know.”
 
Sound familiar?  Some days it seems like you could hold a better conversation with the family dog than with your kids! The one-word answers, the body language and the general silence are clear signals that they'd rather tune you out than in. And while hunger, tiredness, or even a cranky mood can keep kids' kips sealed, our own conversation style can also be a big factor.
 
What, when, and how we communicate can all affect the person we’re talking to, and especially children. By making some small changes, we can move from one-word answers to real conversations.
 
Use these three tips to increase communication in your home:
 
1. Leave interrogations to detectives.  “How was school? Who did you sit with at lunch? How was your test?” It’s instinctual: You want to know what’s going on in your kids’ lives. But do you really have to barrage them with questions the minute they walk in the door? Putting your child in the hot seat and hitting him with the spotlight can cause him to clam up — wouldn’t you? Avoid the post-school probing and express yourself with a statement instead. Say, “Welcome home. I’m really happy to see you!”  Then give them time to relax — the conversation will follow.
 
2. Make quality time your daily routine.  Emotional connection plays a large part in how comfortable kids are to opening up and sharing their feelings. Increase your connection to your child by committing to spending even just 10 minutes together once or twice a day.  Make sure you are 100 percent present during this time; no taking phone calls or watching the big game in the background. Use this opportunity to do something your child likes, such as reading his favorite story or doing a small craft project.  You will be amazed how much he will start sharing during your special time together.
 
3. Share yourself! The communication road goes both ways: If your child seems hesitant about opening up, then you do the sharing. Instead of worrying about finding a topic of interest to your child, focus on talking openly and naturally about yourself — how your day was, the upcoming family vacation, the fact that someone stole your lunch from the work fridge — whatever happens to be on your mind.  End your conversation by saying, “Thanks for listening. I feel better when I can talk about things with you.” Not only does your child now know more about you, but you’ve also become a model for how they can communicate their own thoughts in the future.
 
These strategies are sure to get even the most mime-like children to start to chit-chat. By tweaking your communication, you’ll not only learn more about your children, but you will have begun sharing your life with them as well. And that’s something to talk about!

Have you had problems getting your kids to open up? What strategies do you use to get the dialogue going?

Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the author of "If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling." For easy-to-implement strategies for happier families and well-behaved kids, follow Positive Parenting Solutions on Facebook.

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