How to speak ‘with’ instead of ‘at’


Children want to be heard, and they want to feel valued by the adults in their lives. Each day in the hubbub of Colorado Academy Lower School life, I try to converse with students. I try to do more than simply say “hello” and “how are you?” However, those types of quick conversations do occur frequently in a day for me. In the conversations, I attempt to exchange ideas and get to know each student on a more personal level. These conversations take time and effort. With each conversation, I learn something new about the student and feel connected to them in a new way.

As an adult in the hustle and bustle of life, it becomes easy to speak “at” a child instead of speaking “with” a child. Stop for a moment and think about the actual conversations that you have with your child each day. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do you and your child talk about?
  • When and where do you talk?
  • Do you use clear, age-appropriate language?
  • Do the conversations have a positive or negative tone?
  • How much time do you actually converse with your child each day—not providing directions or re-directions?
  • What do you consider to be a valuable conversation with your child?

It does take effort and a conscious attempt to slow down and actually have a meaningful exchange. There are so many different things competing for a person’s time each day. Try to carve out at least ten minutes a day that you and your child can talk. The topics may range from reviewing the school day to discussing a social issue, planning a special activity, or solving a problem.

Many times, we do not realize that the small amount of time that we take to talk with and listen to a child is the most valuable part of their day. And, it may just be what the child needed to hear that day or be helpful in the future for them.