Parenting Style: Tune into Your Child's True Nature

"He doesn't tell me much."

The nontalker can make a parent feel lonely, cut off from the child's life, and lacking a real sense of companionship. Even when kids do talk, some parents admit to being disappointed by the superficiality of their conversations. "I don't hear much about what goes on with my son, except for Pokémon or the latest TV show," says the father of 7-year-old Sean. "I feel guilty saying this, but talking with him is boring."

What to Understand: If a normally expressive chatterbox suddenly turns mute, it's a signal that something in her life warrants attention. But a good many young children just naturally hold their cards close to the chest. The fact is that children vary greatly in the development of communication skills: Remembering things and being able to sequence a story, organize thoughts, and choose the right words to describe something are capacities that come to some kids later. But a child's limited expressiveness may improve greatly over time.

The Plus Side: Just because your child isn't a talker, don't assume there's nothing going on inside her head. Nonverbal kids often express themselves in actions rather than words. A warm hug, a thoughtful gift, or even doing a chore without being asked are some of the ways in which quiet children show their love.

What to Do: The father of one generally tight-lipped child noticed that "Andrew liked to gab when he was taking his bath. That's when we'd hear about who was nice in school, what he didn't like about his teacher, and so on." So this alert dad built a routine around bathtime, setting up a chair for himself beside the tub while his son chatted and played with his toy boats. When he was about 7, Andrew wanted more privacy, "so we'd talk through the shower curtain," says his father. Different children open up at different times of the day; figure out when or where your youngster becomes relatively more talkative and try to be there then. Maybe it's on the drive to school in the morning or in bed at night when you're rubbing his back. Be open, ready, and available to hear what's on his mind.

Many kids find talking more comfortable when they're doing something else at the same time. Ask a direct question and you probably won't get a direct answer. But play a game of checkers, get her to help you put away groceries, or plop on the floor to draw pictures together -- anything that takes the focus off communicating -- and you might suddenly get a casual update on her life.

Parents Are Talking

Add a Comment