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Success as a parent, as a teacher, or in other roles with children depends a lot on being able to communicate well. Communication is more than simply sharing information. When parents and children communicate, they are understanding one another and learning about the others' thoughts and feelings. Thus, while many people tend to think of communication primarily as talking, the most important part of it, and perhaps the most diffi­cult to learn, is listening.

The initial communication between parent and child occurs in infancy. A baby's smile, seen by the mother or father, is an invitation to talk and smile back. At this stage, successful parents are good ob­servers. Soon, parent-child sharing of messages moves beyond non­verbal communication to sounds and spoken words. Children and parents not only exchange information, but their communication quickly becomes a way of sharing emotions and giving support. Families that communicate well share a full range of experiences—the happy and good parts of life and also sad times, problems, and their solu­tions.

To be effective communicators, you and your child must practice and de­velop skills together. Successful communication not only allows any topic or feeling to be shared, but it uses nonverbal as well as verbal ways of express­ing oneself.

As with other aspects of parenting, you probably communicate with your own child in much the same way that your parents did with you. When it comes to communication, your parents were your models—and in many fam­ilies, parents were not necessarily good models.

Listen to yourself. Although it is not something you are conscious of, you probably sound a lot like your parents did when they talked to you. Try to re­member what was positive and negative about their ways of communicating, and see if you can find echoes of that in your own style. You may need to train yourself to break old habits of poor listening and damaging criticism. As you do, you will not only communicate better with your youngster, but you will also be providing a model of more positive behavior, so that she will become a better communicator.


Last Updated
Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.