How to talk and listen to your child

by pew

How to talk and listen to your child

Communicating with your child is one of the most important aspects of parenting. Starting an effective form of communication right from birth is a must do, it is never too early to start. Not only will it make your life easier later on but it also gives your child confidence and a willingness to communicate with you. This will continue through the early years, into his teens and into adulthood too. Communication is the basis of an interactive and positive parent/child experience.

Early Communication

Most parents actually communicate better with their children in the first 12 months or so than later on. During this early period your child is totally dependant on you and you tend to ‘talk’ to him all the time. He’ll respond with smiles and gaga’s and this encourages you to talk to him even more. It is once he starts to crawl and walk and play by himself that communication can slip.

Your baby goes from always viewing your face directly, to seeing you from different angles. He has to now decipher your words from a different view point. This is not a negative thing as it helps him learn about emotions and tones. He’ll soon learn to tell from the tone of your voice what you mean.

At this stage it is so important that you are aware of this fact. Be conscious of your words and how you express them. Your child is learning your character during this time and if you are one to constantly nag or shout then this is who you are to him. You are defining yourself now, in his eyes.

Once he is crawling and walking remember to come down to his level. Do not stand above and over him all the time. Engage with him at face level and be genuinely interested in what he is trying to convey.

It is also important that you talk to your child and not at him. Encourage him to respond in whatever form he wishes to. As a baby, there will be lots of gaga stuff. You can do that too but continue to talk normally also. He’ll start to input everything from an early age and he will begin to understand you much earlier than you can ever imagine.


When you are talking about things, point at the objects too. Your child will pick this up and this will be one of the first things he will be able to use to explain himself to you. He will create his own form of sign language for you to follow. In this way he will be able to ‘talk’ to you way before he can actually talk.

Once our first daughter started to walk she also began to point and gesture to explain herself. For instance she would crouch and pat the floor with her hand when she wanted you to follow her. I never showed her this; it was something she invented herself.


Similarly your child will start making up his own words, thinking that he is saying what you normally say but you may in fact have no idea what he is saying. But if you’ve taught him to physically point things out, he will easily explain himself when you ask him to.

Young children have an amazing capacity for learning. Our two year old only speaks a few words but understands absolutely everything, in two languages! We speak Dutch and English to her and you can give her an instruction in either language and she understands. We spoke to her from day one using both languages.

Don’t Ignore Him

When your child wants something and you don’t understand, it is vitally important you don’t let that situation go. By stopping and engaging and finding out sincerely what your child is trying to convey to you, you are telling him you care.  This stage in life sets him up forever. If he is constantly trying to get your attention and failing he’ll learn that communication with you is ineffective.

I see all too often parents ignoring their children when they are tugging at their sleeves saying ‘mummy, mummy’.  By ignoring your child you are giving the wrong messages and setting the roots for miscommunication in the future. What you do now affects your whole future together. Even if you’re talking to others and your child is seeking attention, stop for a second and explain to them that you are busy and that you’ll be with him soon, don’t just ignore him.

If your child starts to ignore what you say and doesn’t even listen then consider that you have been ignoring him too. Maybe you have been nagging too much and he is becoming ‘deaf’ to you. Children can give us great lessons about ourselves if we’re open to it.

Encouragement and Explanations

Once your child starts to talk, encourage him and join in and help him. He loves to learn and especially loves to have your approval. Use this. Certainly in discipline areas talking and listening is going to help you both. Continue to talk and explain things, always. Make sure you reinforce his attempts at communication with cuddles and praise.

If I think about it I constantly talk and explain things to my child. And I never let anything go. If my child has done something wrong I will persevere until she looks at me and listens to what I have to say. Even if she doesn’t understand she gets the idea you are explaining something important. This realization alone aids her in differentiating between my  ’voices’.

By always listening and showing interest your child will be more inclined to communicate with you. It starts at an early age but you have set the roots for continued communication at this stage already.

To summarize; 

  • Start talking to your child from an early age
  • Be conscious of the tones of voice you use
  • Go down to his level to talk, face to face
  • Talk to him and not at him
  • Encourage him to point and explain what he means
  • Always explain everything
  • Don’t slip into a habit of ignoring

If you use these few simple steps you’ll master the art of knowing how to listen so your child will talk and talk so your child will listen.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Julie March 19, 2009 at 8:11 pm

Well that makes complete sense… I look at my childhood differently again thanx to you! As you’ve written, children have great lessons to teach us. And even if I don’t have any little ones at this point of my life, I can talk to the little girl in me and understand her more than ever. As negative and positive feelings arise in day-to-day life or facing certain situations, I can relate it easily to how I felt supported, cared and at the end loved in the first years of my life. Thank you!

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