improve communication

Teaching your child how to properly communicate is an essential part of raising them and teaching them about money. Unfortunately, many kids don’t like to talk and will only give you a one-word answer when you ask them how their day was.

If you intend to teach your children about proper money management and investing, you need to be able to have a conversation with them. Communication is extremely important in any family but many families struggle with this very issue.

In this article, I am going to provide you the tools you will need to get your child to talk to you even if he or she is difficult to communicate with.

My Experience Talking To Young Children

interview people, experience forensic interview

Before I was a father, I was a detective in a Crimes Against Children Unit. It was an amazing experience filled with a wide range of emotions. I investigated crimes that people did to children. If you can imagine it, I investigated it.

Without getting into too many of the graphic details, I will just say that there are too many children out there who are living through hell on earth. Things you would never want to experience as an adult, let alone as a child.

With that being said, one of my jobs as a detective was to speak with young children who were the victims of these terrible crimes.

As you can imagine, most children did not want to talk about their trauma with someone they knew, let alone a strang detective who they had never met. My job was to get them to feel comfortable enough to trust me in order to tell me about their trauma.

Where am I going with this?

In order to accomplish this task, I was trained on how to forensically interview children. My forensic interview training was over 80 hours of specialized training that taught me the basics of talking with children.

What Is A Forensic Interview?

scientist with microscope forensic interview

A forensic interview is a special way to communicate with a child in order to get information from them without influencing the information. As you can imagine, children are easily manipulated. Due to this, if you ask leading questions, they may give you an answer that may not be truthful.

The child isn’t necessarily lying on purpose, but children want to please adults. If it’s obvious you want a certain answer, they will usually give you the answer you want (even if it’s not entirely true).

Forensic interviewing removes leading questions and other interview techniques that are used on adults and is meant to gain honest and truthful information from a child.

When Are Children Forensically Interviewed?

  • If the child is a witness or a victim to a crime, forensic interviews are used to gain information that can later be used in court.
  • Children are often scared to tell others about their current household situation, such as not receiving enough food or other basic necessities of life. A forensic interview would be good in this situation.
  • Anytime you need to talk to a child and have an open conversation with them!

How I Forensically Interview My Children – And Why!

After I became a father, I continued to use the techniques I learned from forensic interviewing to talk to my children. The techniques I  learned have allowed me to connect with my children on levels that other parents struggle to do.

At dinner, my children tell me all about their day – in detail. I know who all their friends are and what they did at recess. If you struggle with communicating with your child, I imagine your dinner discussion goes something like this:

Parent: Hey Johnny, how was your day?

Johnny: “good.” ……(silence)

Getting answers from little Johnny is like pulling teeth!

Fortunately, there is a better way to communicate with your child!

You Kids Don’t Communicate Because You Ask Bad Questions

shrug emoji, ask bad questions

The type of question you ask your child directly correlates with the answer you are going to receive. Unless you have an extremely talkative child, most children are tired after school and don’t want to talk about their day. Giving them a question that they can answer give them an easy out.

By training yourself to ask different questions, you can start to train both you and your child to improve communication. Below I offer a few examples on what questions you should avoid and which questions you should ask your kiddo.

Questions You Should NOT Ask Your Child

prohibited sign, do not ask these questions

1. Any question that can be answered with one word. Don’t give them that option!

For example:

P: How was school?

C: “fine.”

2. Any question that asks the child to answer “why something happened.”

For example:

P: Why did the bully hit you?

C: “I don’t know”

We Need To Look At Questions Differently

Children need to be talked to differently than adults. You need to tell the child what you want to know in an open-ended way.

Here is a better way to ask the same questions:

P: Tell me about the most fun thing you did at school today.

C: “We made snowflakes out of construction paper and even got to use the scissors on our own!”

P: What did you do after you made the snowflakes?

C: We went to recess.

P: Tell me everything you did at recess

C: I played on the swings and then went to the soccer field.

If you want more information about something they told you, use something like, “Tell me more about that” to have your child further elaborate.

By telling the child what you want to know, they usually will expand more. Your kid can’t say “good” or “fine” to the above questions. In order to answer, it requires much more than one word.

Another way to ask the bully question:

P: What were you doing before the bully came up to you?

C: “I was playing in the sand and he wanted my toy”

P: What happened next?

C: “I told him no and he got mad and hit me.”

P: Where did he hit you?

C: “He punched me right in the arm.”

P: What did you do after that?

C: “I ran and told the teacher.”

If you notice that exchange, none of the answers to the parent’s could be answered with a one-word answer.

How To Ask The Right Questions

  • Tell your child what you want to know.
    • Examples:
      • Tell me about (insert item here)
      • Tell me about the first thing you did after you got to school today
      • What happened next
  • Have your child step you through an incident, even if you know the answers.
    • I heard you had a great day at Grandmas. Tell me what you did after we dropped you off.
      • And then what happened?
      • Tell me what you did next.
      • Tell me all about the favorite thing you did at Grandmas

Questions you should avoid are “why” or “how” questions. These questions are usually answered with minimal words or the child may not actually know the answer. Often children don’t know “why” something happened or “how” it did – they just know it happened.

If you ask your child the right question, you can figure out the why and how based on what happened.

Create A Habit Of Communication

family eating dinner, talk to children

Each night at dinner, we all sit at the table and turn the television off. I made it a habit of going around the table at dinner time and talking to each child about their day. With the craziness of life, I have found this time is incredibly important to our family.

We force ourselves to slow down and actually talk to one another. My children each get their own time to tell us about their day while the others listen. It improves their communication skills while making them more confident to open up about their life.

Even though I spent 80+ hours in forensic interview training, the basics are relatively easy to pick up. My wife has also picked up on this style of questioning and uses it on a daily basis as well.

The more you practice open-ended questions and avoid the one-word answers, the easier your question formation will get. Practice makes perfect!

Using Forensic Interviewing To Talk About Money

The more you practice these types of questions, the more you can train your child to talk to you. Teaching your children about finances needs to be a conversation rather than you talking at your child.

To be fair, not all of my children communicate the same. We are all blessed with different skills and some are more articulate than others. However, if you train your child that one-word answers are not acceptable, they will start to answer you with complete sentences as long as you make it a habit.

This post originally appeared on Arrest Your Debt.