Hot Topics for Parents – Use Your Voice Wisely

Offering positive statements to help a child learn to put on a coat will motivate him or her more than criticism will.

Tone of voice is very important when talking to children, and it can often mean more than the actual words you are saying. Try to use a calm voice with children. You can say the exact same words, but use a different tone of voice and change the meaning of your words completely.

Conveying Praise vs. Criticism Through Tone

Imagine a three-year old who has been struggling to put his coat on by himself, even though the rest of her preschool mates have been doing it for months. When he does get the hang of putting on his own coat, his teacher could say in an excited tone, “Timmy, you got your coat on!” To the child, this conveys congratulations and praise. If the adult had said the exact same phrase in a sarcastic tone, it conveys negativity and singling out to the child. The words don’t have to change; the tone changes the meaning of the phrase.

Save your raised voice for important things. Children who are constantly yelled at learn to tune it out. When children aren’t used to hearing you yell, they will probably listen when you shout, “Stop! Don’t run in the street!”

It’s All About the Delivery

The way your words are delivered to children—the volume, tone, and even nonverbal messages like body language and facial expression—will have a great effect on how the child perceives your message. Most social psychologists say that nonverbal communication makes up about 2/3 of all communication.  When an adult is towering over a child, yelling at him, the message contained in the words is mostly lost. The message the child receives is “anger.”

One goal of communication with children is to teach correct behavior. Yelling, sarcasm, and negativity usually will not help you accomplish that goal.

By Betty and Doniese

Family Life Instructors at Avera McKennan

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