Talk With Kids: Let’s Get Real

Portrait Of Hispanic Mother And Daughter In Park

Talking With Kids . . . Let’s Get Real

7 Tips for Talking With Your Child

1) One thing I’ve learned as an educator is to stop talking so darned much. When teachers and parents go on and on (and on and on) blabbering about something we want kids to know, we really can sound like the adults in Charlie Brown’s life.

Our children learn that they really don’t have to listen to much of what we’re saying, because we’re going to say it a dozen or so times in the next fifteen minutes. It’ll be buried in LOTS more words, but —not to worry!— “I can tune out, here, for a while, and think about something more interesting.” Hm. Is this a new freckle on my arm? Weird.


If it’s important for your child to hear, look them in the eyes, and be quick and precise with your words.

2) I’ve learned, too, that adults often feel they must gush to the point of lying to “sell” the fact that their child (or his effort, or her picture, or that act) is worthwhile. I hear them exaggerate (to the point that my eyes, quite uncontrollably, roll back into my head) about a child’s most trivial accomplishments. “That’s 100% right! You’re brilliant!”

You do realize that kids have BS detectors, too, right? All of those words we spew trying to convince kids that we are fully engaged, absolutely diminish the power in our voice of truth.


Saying, “You DID it!” along with a big hug can be enough.

3) I have said, “Lavish your child with praise.” And I MEAN that. I love for my kids to know when I see their wonder within. But qualifying events do not include a hastily drawn picture or an adequate completion of a task I’ve asked them to do three times.

When your kids are just on the edge of trying something and their confidence is wavering but they’re sticking with it, or the skills required to accomplish a task are just beyond their own skill set–but they’re absolutely giving it a go, or they’re just finding the courage to take a bold step . . . THAT’S when you pour on the praise!


Speak honestly. Reserve high praise for that which is worthy of high praise.

4) Are you the one who walks into a room and says, “Here I am!” or are you the one who walks into a room and says, “There you are.”? When it comes to praising our children, let’s keep the focus on the children.


The praise you offer isn’t about you. It’s about the other person. (If it isn’t, it isn’t praise.)

5) Music is made of sounds and silences. An entire piece played at forte is likely to sound more like noise. Our voices are similar. A quiet voice can be magical. Until it’s not. Then it’s just frustrating. Experiment to learn what captivates your child, but be careful not to overuse what’s working today, or tomorrow it’ll no longer be effective.


Experiment with punctuating your speech with varying levels of volume, tempo, and intensity.

6) Notice what praises mean most to you. I teach kids to notice when authors use magical crafting techniques. We can do the same with spoken words. When your friends and family speak —pouring treasured words of praise over your heart— What do they say? How do they say it? When do they say it? What makes it so meaningful?

Long ago, a teacher wrote a thank you note to my son and me. It said, “I just love it!” That word just made me feel what I perceived as her genuine joy. I use that expression today, 25 years later, when I want someone to know just how meaningful something is to me. You can do that, too. Remember, when we copy others, it’s the ultimate compliment!


Be a praise stalker and stealer. Store those praises up and strew them about as needed/deserved.

7) It may be true that talk is cheap. In my experience, one gets what he pays for. Cheap talk (aka thoughtless prattle) can be costly. Use your word capital wisely. Sometimes less truly is more.


Strive to make your words treasured keepsakes that will be forever hidden in your child’s heart.