Do you struggle with getting your kids to talk to you? It seems like when they are young, like toddler age, they ask questions and talk all day long. So what happens when they get to upper elementary, middle and high school age? They don’t say a word and possibly hide out from you. So frustrating. How can you get your child to talk to you?
It is so true the more you push your kids to talk, the more defensive they get. They shut down and ignore you. I can totally relate and feel your frustration. I remember just wanting to have a conversation about their day or maybe even something they were going to do over the weekend.It was like pulling teeth.
So here are some things I learned through parenting my children. I also looked to friends, family and colleagues to find out what they were doing to handle their resistant child. Here are my tips on how to handle your resistant child who will not talk to you.
Five Ideas – It starts with you
- Start with being understanding. You might not agree with what they are saying, but listen to them. Let them know you care about them.
- Ask open ended questions for their input. Ask questions that open up the conversation to your child. This will get you to their ideas and will help you to understand their thinking. How is your best friend doing? What is happening with (a sport they are playing or something at school?). Instead of “why” questions ask them “what” questions.
- Be the parent. Ask yourself, “How do I want to act in this situation?” Ask yourself: What can I put up with and what can’t I? Take back your power and say to yourself, If my child is screaming at me, instead of demanding he stop, I can turn around and walk away and not engage.
- Stay calm. Do not get emotional. This is very tough to do. Don’t take it personally. Wait until everyone is calm before doing anything. It is best to resolve the situation when both people are calm. Do not engage with your child when they are upset. Read more here for tips on how to help your child calm down.
- Create a daily habit of checking in with your child. It will make having a conversation easier. Make it during times with less distractions like dinner, bed time or a time in the car. Make sure to talk about your day too. Model the behavior you want from them. They need to hear and see you talking about difficult days/moments and also good days/moments or situations.
Tips to get your child to talk
Try some of these specific things to help your resistant child talk to you. Maybe choose one or two a week to use. Remember that some will work better than others. Be realistic. Parenting is not easy. Giving yourself grace is very important.
- Share a childhood story that shows you are not perfect.
- Have them participate in making family meals. These moments make it easier to have a conversation and they will feel included in the decision making.
- Don’t force them to see the positive in everything. Validate their feelings by just listening.
- Journal back and forth.
- Show an interest in their hobbies.
- Greet your child with positive statements. It’s so great to see you. I’m happy you’re home.
- Don’t judge. Encourage honest communication.
- Give your child your undivided attention- no phone or work or talking with other parents.
- Be patient. They may need time to process what happened.
- Focus on spending some quality time together as a family. Prioritize this time.
- Offer to carpool your child and his friends. You will overhear what is going on.
- Have family dinners
- Take your kids on individual dates so they get some one on one time.
- Make sure to connect with each of your children every single day.
Be Observant and creative
Sometimes kids don’t want to be center stage. Giving your child the option to write you a note as a form of communication will help them to open up. Reassure your child that you are always available later, if that is a more comfortable time for them. This is a mistake I made frequently. I would try to get them to talk right away even if they were not ready. Sometimes the note was a perfect way to communicate. A few times they would slide it under my door. So great!
An indirect approach sometimes works even better. So maybe, when you’re in the kitchen making dinner or watching television ask, “Hey if you were talking to grandma and she asked what is the best part of 4th grade what would you say? If you were granted three wishes what would they be? If a genie could erase three things that really worry you, what would those be?”
Timing is Everything
Timing is so important. Don’t try to have meaningful conversation when they are busy or with a friend. Make sure to be observant of when your child is ready to possibly have a conversation. It might be when he comes up to get a snack or watch some television. Maybe even ask him to go for a ride to get an ice cream cone so you have his undivided attention too. If your daughter sits down by you when you are watching television that is usually a sign that she needs you. Take into account those certain times when they come to see you throughout the day or evening. For example, my son will come sit at the kitchen island or lie down on the sofa. I know that is when he has something to talk about or needs help with something. It’s great because I figured that out. It feels good.
Questions to ask to get your child to talk
Instead of forcing a conversation, try something like,”Hey welcome home. Glad you are here.” “When you feel like talking I’d love to hear about your day.” Or maybe ask specific questions like “Who did you play with at recess? What do kids do at recess? Did anything funny happen at school today? What was the best thing that happened today?” Need some more ideas? Check this out.
Make sure to give them time to respond. Some children need more time to process information.
Overall we want to figure out how to get a resistant child to talk to a parent. It changes along the way depending on the age of the child and their personality. Most important be patient. Use the tips above and know that it takes time. Let your child know that you love them and are there for them every single day. They may act like they don’t care or need to hear it, BUT they do. Trust me when I say that kids need to hear that every day from their parents.