Is Your Child a Mini-Adult?

Are children mini-adults? Can we simply soften our manner of adult dialogue and converse successfully with our children?

In order to have effective communication between with our children, we must understand the language of children. What is that language?

Observe a young child for several hours (or even just a few minutes!) and you will notice emotions covering the entire spectrum- from extreme joyfulness to intense anger. When a child is happy, his entire being is filled with joy; when that child is upset he is angry from head to toe!

Thus, it is obvious that the primary language of children is the language of emotions.

The words that we use in communication are the language of the intellect.

The nonverbal aspects of our communication are the language of emotions.

When adults communicate, they generally first hear what the other person has to say, and then decide what their opinion of the other person is.

In contrast, children first decide what their feelings about another person are, and subsequently decide whether or not to bother listening.

In summary:

Adults: respond to verbal, intellectual communication

Children: respond to nonverbal, emotional communication

When we heighten our awareness of the nonverbal messages we are giving our children, we are able to reach their hearts more effectively.

The expression on your face, the sincerity in your tone of voice, the body language you are using, are all essential components of your emotional communication with your child. Spending time alone with your child, as the total focus of your attention is a strong nonverbal message, often likely to be more effectively received by your child than the actual words of your conversation.

The ability to plan for the future and see ahead in time is an intellectual endowment. Children, who live primarily in the emotional realm, live in the present. The younger the child, the less real the future is in his mind.

Incidentally, that is why young children universally resist going to bed. To their mind, tomorrow is not another day, only the present matters, and sleep is nearly tantamount to dying!

Despite their differences, children have many similarities to adults:

People of all ages appreciate being heard. Just as you feel offended when your co-worker mumbles responses to your questions without lifting his gaze from his computer, children thrive on focused, meaningful attention.

When your child knows based upon past experience, that his words are going to be important to you, he won’t close down communication.

Both young and old appreciate the effort that goes into understanding their uniqueness. Hopefully, you were fortunate enough to have had a parent or teacher in your life that expended the energy to truly understand you. The emotional value of a relationship is directly related to the effort that was spent to achieve it. The effort that we parents make to understand our children will yield rich rewards, even if they do not seem to appreciate it right now.

Let’s remember: It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it!


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  1. Actions often do speak louder than words!
    Mother of three

  2. You can find a source of just about any idea, what is important is that the message is getting to parents, not who should be credited! Many of Stephen Covey’s methods can be attributed to a dozen authors prior to him. I am just glad for a reminder and some new ideas on how to be a more effective parent.

  3. Whenever I get stuck in communication with my children (or anyone else for that matter), I can usually get back on track when I acknowledge/validate that person’s feelings. I agree that this “article” cautioning parents not to treat their children like mini-adults is a helpful tip/reminder. HOWEVER, while I cannot read the mind of the author or really know what resources she used, this “mini-adult” concept is very similarly explained by Dr. Thomas Phelan in his book and video “1-2-3-Magic” (see I support Ms. Braun’s effort to provide parents with helpful parenting advice, but hope that she will always cite sources when appropriate.

  4. Christina says:

    What a great reminder! It’s easy in the busy-ness of life, to listen with half an ear, or just respond without really hearing what kids are saying. I recently stopped what I was doing, sat down, and looked my five-year-old in the eyes when she was relating a story to me, and I got the biggest smile! Paying attention like that is something I need to do much more often.