Quick Tips

Three Main Keys to Communicating with your Child

  1. Praise your child when she does something right. The more you praise a behavior, the more likely it is your child will behave the same way again.
  2. Pay attention to your child when he is talking to you or trying to communicate with you. Giving him your full attention will help you understand what he is telling you. It will also make him feel like you care about what he has to say.
  3. Set aside time each day to talk and play with your child. Creating a special time lets your child know she is important. It also strengthens the bond between the two of you.

Responding to Behavior

Giving your child positive attention for good behavior can boost his self-esteem, improve your relationship, and help your child understand the behaviors you like and want to see more often. See tips for responding to your child’s behavior using praise, imitation, and description.

  • Praise means giving attention to your child for something he has done that you like.
  • Praise should be as specific as possible.
  • Use labeled praise to tell your child exactly what you like (examples below).
  • Sometimes labeled praise is best when it is not expected. If your child is playing quietly in the living room while you are cooking dinner, take the time to let him know you like it. You might say, “It’s so nice when you are playing quietly all by yourself while I am trying to cook dinner!” This will send a message to your child that you are paying attention.
  • Imitation happens when you copy or mimic things your child does.
  • Imitation is when you play with the same or a similar toy and copy the way your child is playing with it.
  • Any behavior that is imitated by you is likely to be repeated by your child, so carefully choose which behaviors to imitate.
  • Match your actions to your child’s activity. Try not to do it better or faster, which could discourage your child and make her feel bad about herself.
  • Whatever you imitate will likely occur again. It is best to model or demonstrate positive or appropriate behaviors.
  • If you imitate behavior or words that are not appropriate, your child is more likely to say or do those things again. Inappropriate behaviors and words can be ignored if they are not dangerous for her or anyone else or destructive. If your child is doing something that is dangerous or destructive, stop those behaviors immediately.
  • Description involves giving attention to good behavior and talking about what your child is doing.
  • When you use description, you describe your child’s activities as a sports reporter or commentator would describe it. You provide a lot of detail so that someone who is listening but not watching would know what your child is doing.
  • Focus on describing your child’s good behaviors. If you describe misbehavior, your attention will likely cause those behaviors to happen more often.
Click here for additional information about Responding to Behavior.

Active Listening

When parents actively listen to their children, they show that they care and are trying to understand how the child feels about what is happening. Reflection is one way for you to show that you are actively listening to your child.

Reflection of what your child says:
  • Repeat out loud what your child says. You can extend, add to, shorten, or correct what your child says.
Your child says:

“I drawed some sghetti!”

You say:

“You drew some spaghetti.” (grammar and pronunciation correction)


“You drew some long spaghetti.” (grammar and pronunciation correction with elaboration)

Reflection of your child’s feelings:
  • Notice how your child feels about something and describe the feelings with words.
Your child is:

Crying / Seems sad

You say:

“I can see that you’re upset.”

  • Reflection of emotions is not always easy. Here are some tips to make it easier.
      • Take a guess even if you are unsure.
      • Words aren’t needed all the time.
      • You don’t always have to agree.
      • Talk about other feelings.

Special Playtime

Special playtime is time you spend with your child when you focus on the positive things your child does. Special time with your child is important in building a nurturing relationship. Keep the following in mind during special playtime:

  • Try to make special playtime at the same time each day and have it at a time when you can focus only on your child.
  • Try to spend at least 5-10 minutes each day on special playtime.
  • Let your child lead the play.
  • Praise your child’s good behaviors.
  • Imitate your child’s behavior.
  • Describe what your child is doing.
  • Reflect your child’s words and emotions.
  • Be enthusiastic.
  • Limit questions and commands during special playtime, as they take the lead away from your child.
  • Try to stay positive and avoid criticisms during special playtime.
  • Ignore minor misbehaviors during special playtime.
  • Have fun and be silly!
Click here for additional information about special playtime.