1. When your child is talking, stop, and give them your full attention
  2. Get down to your child’s level and make eye contact with them so they know they have your attention
  3. Show you are listening to them by nodding, your facial expression and an using an occasional ‘uh-huh’, ‘oh’ or ‘I see’
  4. If you can, notice what emotions they are feeling and reflect it back to them ‘you sound really frustrated that the teacher didn’t understand’ ‘It must have been really hurtful when you best friend said that to you’
  5. Don’t interrupt, criticise or give advice. Keep your thoughts to yourself and ask what they felt
  6. If there is a problem ask them what they could do about it rather than telling them what they should do (this is very difficult to do!) Ask which solution they want to try first
  7. Be genuinely interested in your child’s day, their interests, their friends, likes, dislikes and their opinions.
  8. Find out their goals and be there to help them achieve them.
  9. Be aware of all the things that stop children communicating such as nagging- ‘How many times do I have to tell you…?’, preaching- ‘You know you shouldn’t do that’, ordering- ’Go to bed. Now!’’, criticising- ‘You’re watching too much TV’, judging- ‘That was silly’, threatening ‘If you do that again I’m going to take all your toys away’, or giving advice -‘What you should do is….’
  10. When you want to say something to your child, go to them and engage with them by noticing what they are doing
  11. If you need to give an instruction, give it only once and ask them to repeat back what you have asked them to do, then wait in their space until they do it.
  12. When talking use ‘I messages’ ‘I’ve had a bad day at work, and feel a bit irritable – I probably need a bit of space tonight’ or ‘I feel really annoyed when I see all this mess around’
  13. If you need to ask your child to do something phrase it in the positive not the negative – so ‘please walk’ rather than ‘don’t run’ or ‘ask politely’ rather than ‘don’t shout’
  14. Tell your child every day that you love them
  15. Tell them all the little things they do that you love, and let them know that they are fine just the way they are –their face, weight, characteristics and personality.
  16. Support your partner in front of your children or at least be neutral. Children don’t want to hear negative things about their Mum or Dad
  17. If there are two parents, agree with your partner what rules or expectations you would like in your family. Back each other up in front of the children, and discuss in private if you disagree or want to find a compromise that you are both happy with.
  18. Be careful not to say things to your child that will make them feel embarrassed or uncomfortable. Don’t share too much -that’s what friends are for. But tell them about your world, your childhood, your goals, achievements and your mistakes. Children want to know about your life.
  19. If you can spend at least 15 minutes relaxed happy time every day with each child. Such as playing a game, chatting or doing something with them they enjoy. When you share an activity your child is so much more likely to share what is going on in their world.
  20. When you see something that annoys you, describe the problem or what you see rather than blaming the child. ‘All the dirty dishes are still on the kitchen table’ or ‘the dog is getting very restless and wants a walk’
  21. Use non-verbal communication such as touching an arm or shoulder to show warmth, a soft, gentle tone of voice to show you are calm and smiling to show you are happy. Give your child as many hugs as they will allow.
  22. Plan to have as many family meals as you can. Mealtime chats are a great time for children to communicate with the whole family.
  23. Be polite but firm when you expect your child to do something. ‘It’s teatime –please come and sit at the table’ or ‘five more minutes, then it will be time to get ready for bed’
  24. Find little ways to say ‘I love you’ such as popping a note in their lunchbox, an unexpected present, cuddling up under a blanket and watching their favourite TV show or tucking them in at night and telling them stories.
  25. Tell them how pleased you are when they have tried their best
  26. Be there when your child needs you.

Common parenting mistakes

child behavioural expert
The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

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