How to Talk More with Your Kids

parenting listening to kidsOne of the most effective and constructive ways of responding to children’s feeling-messages or problem-messages is the “door-opener” or “invitation to say more.” These are responses that do not communicate any of the listener’s own ideas or judgments or feelings, yet they invite the child to share his own ideas, judgments, or feelings. They open the door for him, they invite him to talk. The simplest of these are such noncommittal responses as:

“I see.”                                  

“Really.”

“Oh.”                                       

“You don’t say.”

“Mm-hmmm.”                       

“No kidding.”

“How about that.”                 

“You did, huh.”

“Interesting.”                         

“Is that so!”

Others are somewhat more explicit in conveying an invitation to talk or to say more, such as:

“Tell me about it.”

“I’d like to hear about it.”

“Tell me more.”

“I’d be interested in your point of view.”

“Would you like to talk about it?”

“Let’s discuss it.”

“Let’s hear what you have to say.”

“Tell me the whole story.”

“Go ahead, I’m listening.”

“Sounds like you’ve got something to say about this.”

“This seems like something important to you.”

These door-openers or invitations to talk can be potent facilitators of another person’s communication. They encourage people to start or to continue talking. They also “keep the ball in his court.” They don’t have the effect of your grabbing the ball away from him, as do messages of your own, such as asking questions, giving advice, reassuring, moralizing, and so on. These door-openers keep your own feelings and thoughts out of the communication process. The responses of children and adolescents to these simple door-openers will surprise parents. Kids feel encouraged to move in closer, open up, and literally pour out their feelings and ideas. Like adults, young people love to talk and usually do when anyone extends an invitation.

These door-openers also convey acceptance of the child and respect for him as a person by telling him, in effect:

“You have a right to express how you feel.”

“I respect you as a person with ideas and feelings.”

“I might learn something from you.”

“I really want to hear your point of view.”

“Your ideas are worthy of being listened to.”

“I am interested in you.”

“I want to relate to you, get to know you better.”

 

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