Christian Parenting Articles    

Talking with Your Child

How do you communicate with a child who says, "I hate you; you treat me like a dog! Nobody cares for me except God." Parenting is a continual challenge. Like you, I am struggling. I have no magical words to teach you how to communicate with your kids. I do not have the answers for you for your child for your situation. Parenting is dynamic. However, I will present a communication model that should prove helpful. We will also look at a few cases to help you understand and apply the communication model.

An Idea

The first pre-requisite is that you have something to say an "idea". Are you clear as to what you want to communicate? Encoding an idea into a message

Encoding the Idea with the Target Receiver in Mind

As the transmitter you now have the task of putting your idea into a form in which the receiver can understand. You have to "encode" it. This cognitive process of changing ideas into symbols and organising them into a message is called encoding.

Parents may think that if they have fulfilled their part in encoding the idea then it is up to their children to play their part to decode the message. As parents, it is always our responsibility to ensure that our children understand what is being communicated.

This means (1) taking special effort in encoding your idea (2) with the target receiver in mind. It is important to note that the words, tone and actions that you choose to encode your idea represent specific content meaning therefore, choose them wisely.

Next, you have to keep the target receiver in mind. Does the receiver understand the words used? Does the receiver have the maturity and enough experience to understand what is being communicated?

The apostle Paul took special efforts to ensure the reception of the gospel message. Though he was entitled to financial support (1 Cor. 9:3-5), he did not exercise this right. Instead he worked and supported himself so as to eliminate charges of selfish motives thereby facilitating the communication of the gospel (1 Thess. 2:9).

Coping with Noise in the Encoding Process

There may be internal noises (i.e., your attitude about your position and your feelings) that interfere with the encoding process so much so that the message transmitted is NOT your intended idea. Recognizing this danger, what can you do to encode your idea clearly?

Handling Noises in the Environment and in the Child

There are noises that distort the message in transmission and decoding. Effective parents take these noises into consideration when they are communicating.

  1. External noises along the channel of communication are sights, sounds and other stimuli in the environment that draw a child’s attention away from what is being communicated. Transmission of message with external noise in the environment

    Decoding message received

    The consequence of external noise is that the message may not reach the child in the same form in which it left you (i.e., the message received is NOT the message transmitted).
  1. The child as the recipient also has to cope with internal noises. In this case, the internal noises (the child’s attitude and feelings) interfere with the "decoding" process so much so that the message decoded is NOT the message received.
  1. Then there are semantic noises, the unintended meanings aroused by certain symbols inhibiting the accuracy of decoding. We need to maintain an empty closet where there are no unsettled grievances in the child's mind.


Keep in mind and apply the following model whenever you are communicating with your child. We have succeeded in communicating only when the message decoded is the same as the original idea.

A Communication Model
We have touched on one aspect of communication … talking. But communication is circular in nature … we are not just transmitters of messages, we are also recipients of messages. Parents often have difficulty communicating positively with children when feelings are involved – either their own or their child’s. We will look at how parents can improve their listening skills in another article.

An interesting book that you may want to read is "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk" by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. This book is filled with cartoons that illustrate the authors’ viewpoints. There is a chapter on "Engaging Cooperation" (for older kids). The authors are realistic in that they have added cautions as to why certain pointers would not work in some situations.

Talking with Your Child Mar 1999 Alan S.L. Wong