Communicating effectively can be a tricky thing for adults…and sometimes it can be really tough for kids our Registered Psychologist (Provisional) Lana McAleer has some great information for parents.    

Talking to Kids About How They Talk 

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Many of us probably remember an adult, maybe a parent or a teacher, at some point saying its not what you say, it’s how you say it, and they had a point.

The way we communicate influences how others respond to us, and this can be explored further by examining what communication style is used. This can be done with children as well to help them understand how the way they talk is important.


There are typically three different styles that kids will communicate with: aggressive, passive, and assertive.


Kids can imagine passive communication like a turtle. Explain that there are two different parts of it, what it looks like and what it sounds like. 

It looks like . . . 

  • Looking away from the other person 

  • Looking down  

  • Avoiding talking about problems 

  • Not saying what they need or want 

It sounds like . . . 

  • People don’t think about my feelings 

  • Let’s do whatever you want 

  • It’s fine. I don’t want to get anyone in trouble. 

Kids can imagine aggressive communication like a tiger. This communication style usually comes across as anger. 

It looks like . . . 

  • Being rude or bossy 

  • Rolling their eyes 

  • Pointing your finger 

  • Using an angry tone of voice 

It sounds like . . . 

  • This is what we are doing. 

  • You are the problem. 

  • You can’t play my game unless you play it the way I want. 

Kids can imagine assertive communication as an owl, and typically comes across as fair. 

It looks like . . . 

  • Using a calm voice that is also firm. 

  • Looking the other person in the eyes. 

  • Being fair. Respecting your needs and wants, but also the other person’s needs and wants. 

  • Coming up with ideas that work for both people. 

It sounds like . . . 

  • I don’t feel like playing tag right now. Can we play on the swings instead? 

  • Statements that begin with “I feel”, such as “I feel sad when you say I can’t play. 

~ Lana McAleer

M.Ed., Registered Psychologist (Provisional)

Thanks, Lana.  This will be really helpful for parents.  

Lana McAleer is a Registered Psychologist (Provisional). She works with Adults, Children and Youth and specializes in the following: 

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Panic Attacks
  • Depression
  • Mental Health Issues
  • ADHD
  • Self Esteem
  • Self Confidence
  • Self Compassion
  • Communication Issues
  • And many more areas

Book your appointment with LANA here.

Cheers to helping kids communicate so they feel heard.


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