OK, so you like have to read this article so, you know, it's about talking and stuff, like with kids and whatnot.

What did you say?

Language is a very powerful tool. Language is what enables us to tell each other how we feel, what we want, what we need, it is through language that we teach and listen. We can comfort or attack with our words, make peace or argue, debate and share ideas.

Say "do this" instead of "don't do that". Use positive words, sentences, commands and don't beg. "Please" is optional, please implies that the child has a choice, a choice to say no. Without please there is no out. It is of course polite to say "please" but think about this: when your teacher wants you to learn something he won't say: "Please learn this." He will say "Learn this". You decide how comfortable you are with adding "please" to everything. Many parents make a mistake by wanting to be nice to their kids all the time - no need to be nasty but many times being too nice can backfire.

But perhaps the most important of all is that we do speak to our children. Even if there is not much to say, we can always simply narrate what's going on. If nothing is going on we can sing a song, talk about what we'll do in the afternoon, etc.

I added lots of examples to this page to make it easier to understand what I mean:

Here's the first example: "Please don't run around, it's not playtime anymore, we have to put your toys away."
There are several things wrong with this sentence: It starts with please, which immediately softens the sentence, it doesn't clearly address who I'm talking to, it describes what shouldn't be done, it describe what isn't, it relieves of responsibility ("we") and uses "have to" unnecessarily. Instead, say this: "Emma, put your toys away." (I'm talking to you and this is what i want you to do.)


Honestly answer every single question - encourage questions.


When you're a slightest bit unsure about what someone tells you say "let me say it back to you so you can tell me if I got it right"


Shut up for a while and listen to what kids tell us. How on else can we expect them to listen to you otherwise? Pay close attention to how they play and to the lyrics of songs they make up. I learned more about the true feelings of my daughter through listening to her pretend play and careless singing in the back row of the van then in any one-on-one guided conversation.

Be concise

Children have a short attention span.

Instead of saying: "You can't run away because then daddy will not find you and you might get lost and we will be worried and you will cry" say: "Stay with me and hold my hand." The goal is to get the point across and get them to do it. The goal is not to negotiate what should or shouldn't be done. We don't need explanations or justifications. We need only to say what we want them to do. An explanation can be provided as a reason for an action, not as an incentive. An incentive is a condition: this for that. For example:
"Put your clothes away so that we can vacuum the floor." There is no condition or reward.
"Put your clothes away because I need to vacuum the floor so that we can carry on with the day". Now we're justifying ourselves.

Speak up & enunciate

No need to speak ridiculously slowly and speak out every syllable but toddlers who don't speak yet or speak very little benefit from properly enunciated words and sentences.

"Stop", "no", "don't", "have to" & "question-commands"

Stop fidgeting => Stay put
Stop! => Do X!
Stop throwing your food on the floor => Keep your food on the plate
Don't run away => Hold my hand and squeeze it tight
Screaming is no way to behave in public => I want you to talk at a normal volume
Don't feed the dogs => Dogs eat dog food only
Don't cough over my food => Put your hand in front of your mouth if you need to cough
You have to come here => Come here
You have to put your toys away => Put your toys away
You have to give me your hand => Give me your hand
Would you like to have some juice? => Here's some juice for you (if you're going to give them the juice anyway, why ask)
Wanna help me put your toys away? => Help me put your toys away (what if they say no - will you then let them get away with it?)
Can I have that toy please? => Give me that toy please (again, what if they say no - you'll just make them give you the toy anyway)
Do you want to go to the store? => Let's go to the store, OK? => Let's go to the store. => We're going to the store.

Do you want to?

Asking questions when an affirmative response is required and a negative answer will not be respected makes no sense. If you already made up your mind that you will take your child for a walk, don't say: Do you want to go for a walk? If he says no, you'll go anyway but only after disrespecting your child decision about something you asked him about. If you disrespect his decision you can't expcet him to respect yours.


To understand sarcasm (to "get it") we need a high level of understanding of language and the concept of reverse-speech. Understanding the subtlety of sarcasm requires second-order interpretation of the speaker's intentions. (I didn't come up with this on my own, I read it somewhere). It's a difficult concept and can easily be misinterpreted.

There are many articles on the Internet describing in detail the devastating nature of sarcasm used around and on children. Children are literal thinkers and in the best case will be only "very confused" by sarcasm as in "why do they say the opposite of what they mean?" but they can be hurt as well as in "why do they say I'm a good musician and laugh when I play?".

It's not just about how we talk to kids

As we learn how to teach to our kids we must also teach them how to communicate effectively, without misunderstanding or being rude. We need to teach them how to deliver and take criticism, how to communicate love and anger and everything in between to one or more persons.