Talking to your kids

Effective communication between parents and children is the foundation of healthy family relationships. Developing good communication skills early on, helps parents discover problems, supports positive behavior, and keeps parents aware of what is happening in their children’s lives.


  • Icon for CALM Steps
    CALM Steps

    Following CALM steps helps keep the conversation moving in a positive direction.

    C: Control your thoughts and your actions.

    A: Assess and decide if you are too upset to continue.

    L: Leave the situation if you are feeling too angry or upset.

    M: Make a plan to deal with the situation within 24 hours.

  • Icon for Encouragement

    Consistent encouragement builds confidence, promotes cooperation, and reduces conflict.

    Try new activities.

    Develop new friendships.

    Tackle difficult tasks.

    Explore their creativity.

  • Icon for Negotiation

    Negotiating solutions helps solve problems, make changes, promote and improve cooperation, and teach youth how to:

    Focus on solutions.

    Think through possible outcomes.

    Develop communication skills rather than problem behaviors or bad habits.

Problem Solving

  • Problem Solving Steps:
  • Brainstorm and open your mind to all ideas; try to come up with three ideas each
  • Stay positive, any idea is good, even ones that seem silly
  • Take turns coming up with ideas
  • Evaluate your list of ideas
  • Go through and list the positives and negatives of each idea
  • Choose a solution
  • Combine ideas if needed
  • All of you should agree on the chosen solution
  • Problem Solving Barriers:
  • Don’t try to solve hot issues
  • Don’t blame the other person or put the other person down
  • Don’t defend yourself, try to let it go
  • Don’t make assumptions about another person’s intentions
  • Don’t bring up the past
  • Avoid using words such as “always” and “never”
  • Don’t lecture, a simple statement will get your point across better

Setting Limits

Setting Limits helps parents teach self-control and responsibility, show empathy, and provide safe boundaries. It also teaches  the importance of following rules. This is a two-step process:

  • Step 1: Setting Rules
  • Make clear, simple, and specific rules
  • Make sure your child understands your rules
  • Have a list of consequences
  • Be ready to follow through
  • Step 2: Following Up
  • Research shows that parents are most effective in setting limits when they follow up right away.
  • Youths are more likely to follow rules if they know you are checking up on them and will enforce the consequences consistently.
  • Give a consequence when rules are broken
  • Offer encouragement when rules are followed

SANE Guidelines

Testing limits is a natural part of growing up, but it presents a special challenge for parents. Often our first reactions may come from fear for our child’s safety, or anger at being disobeyed. SANE guidelines help parents establish appropriate consequences when youth break rules:

S: Small consequences are better

A: Avoid consequences that punish you

N: Non-abusive responses

E: Effective consequences (are under your control and non-rewarding to your child)

Youth may get angry, act out, or become isolated when parents enforce consequences. Your child is testing you and your limits. Don’t react. Be consistent with your rules.


Supervision is the centerpiece of effective parenting during childhood and into young adulthood. When youth begin to spend more and more time away from home, monitoring their behavior and whereabouts is challenging. Supervision helps parents recognize developing problems, promote safety, and stay involved. Follow the 4 C’s to help you on your parenting journey.

Clear Rules – Have a few non-negotiable rules about your child’s behavior and state them clearly! 

Communication – Regular communication with other parents and teachers:

Checking Up – This lets your child know that you care about his or her safety, and that your rules are important. 

Consistency – Supervision is most effective when parents set clear limits and follow through with consequences for misbehavior. Also, be consistent with giving praise and incentives when a rule is followed.

How to Get the Conversation Started