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The way you respond to children can influence the direction of the conversation. Some responses may lead to an argument or stop the conversation all together, while others can open up a helpful, positive conversation. Here are tips to keep conversations going.
In conversations with your child, respond without judgment or your own feelings to open the door to further the conversation. Make your child feel comfortable to continue talking without fear of getting in trouble. Some things you can say to keep the conversation going are:
Is that so!
You did, huh?
how about that.
Be even more direct in inviting them to say more:
Tell me about it.
Go ahead, I’m listening.
What’s your take on it?
Tell me the whole story.
This seems like something important to you.
There are many types of responses that may get in the way of helpful conversation. Even though they may not literally stop the conversation, they can deflect it in directions that are not very useful.
Some of the responses that can take a conversation in an unhelpful direction include:
- Ordering, directing, commanding. Example: You have to phone me if you’re going to be late coming home from school.
- Warning, cautioning, threatening. Example: You better be home on time if you know what’s good for you.
- Giving advice, making suggestions or providing solutions. Example: Why don’t you ask Mandy to play at our house?
- Persuading with logic, arguing, lecturing. Example: If you learn to take responsibility for your actions, you’ll grow up to be a responsible adult.
- Saying what they should do, moralizing. Example: You should know better.
- Disagreeing, judging, criticizing, blaming. Example: You're not thinking clearly.
- Agreeing, approving, praising. Example: You're right, at least you tried.
- Shaming, ridiculing, labelling. Example: You're so inconsiderate!
- Interpreting or analyzing. Example: You didn’t want to tell me where you were going because you and Mandy were up to no good.
- Reassuring, sympathizing, consoling. Example: I know, school can be pretty boring sometimes.
- Questioning or probing. Example: Why did you want to go to Mandy’s house and not ours?
- Withdrawing, distracting, humouring, or changing the subject. Example: Just forget about it.
Some of these responses may be appropriate in small doses and in the right contexts. But, just like alcohol, it’s better to avoid conversation stoppers or, at the very least avoid using them too much too often.