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saying no to a child communicating effectively Glasgow

Communication: 5 habits of highly effective parents

I became a parent last year.

It made me think differently about how I communicate.

It strengthened my belief in what we often call our Golden Rules of Communication.

Here they are, but through the eyes of a child.

We’ve taken five short stories of how simple changes in the way you speak to your kids can make huge differences.

1. Positive communication

parent communication skills baby with pink elephant.

Don’t think of a Pink Elephant.

Of course, that’s what you think of.

Telling children what not to do will conjure that image in their minds.

As we explained this principle to a marketing agency, one woman threw her head into her hands.

She had just commissioned pencils to go into Scottish schools, which say clearly on the side:


“Of course, that’s all they’ll think about”, she gasped.

“In fact”,

“when they sharpen the end, the ‘don’t’ will disappear”.

Rule #1: tell your kids what to do; explain what is the case.

“Stay away from the railway lines”.

“Only play in safe areas”.

2. Commitment

parent communication skills kids hiking commitment.

A friend of mine and his mother learned the hard way about commitment.

He walked home from school aged 13, arriving at 5pm.

This was 90 minutes after he left off, after his mum said she was unable to pick him up.

“Where have you been?!”

shouted his father as he let him in the front door.

Clearly, there has been a breakdown in communication.

When he had asked if his mother could pick him up at 3.30, she replied


The ‘hopefully’ was intended to serve as a warning that she could be five minutes late.

To her 13-year old child, when she failed to arrive at 3.30, it meant “no”.

Rule #2: give firm commitments to your children.

“I’ll be there between 3.30pm and 3.45pm. Make sure you wait for me”.

3. Simple communication

parent communication skills einstein quote simple.

The Sun newspaper writes for 7-year olds.

Whether it’s Higgs-Boson, Brexit or tax avoidance, it needs to be explained in its simplest form.

When you’re preparing your next presentation, ask your kids if they understand it.

They’ll tell you directly.

Bear in mind that Einstein told us:

“If you’re unable to explain something simply, you don’t understand it well enough”.

Dave Sawyer, local digital marketing extraordinaire once asked me:

“Have you ever heard of a child climb into bed and ask to be read a press release?”

They want to be read stories.

We wrote extensively on this here.

Rule #3: speak in terms your kids understand, with simple language.

4. Directness

parent communication skills directness.

Anyone who has come on our presentation skills or media training courses will know there are only four answers to direct questions:



“I don’t know”

“It’s too early to say”

Our trainer Marjory Kenny showed a shining example when speaking to her daughter.

She wanted to go out for the evening with her friends – but her room was a mess.

“Can I go out tonight, mum?”

“That’s too early to say”, replied Marjory…

“Only when I see a tidy room can you go out for the evening”.

It keeps it positive and direct at the same time.

It’s far better than the alternative,

“you can’t go out if you haven’t tidied your room”.

Now there’s an incentive to tidy up.

Rule #4: give a direct answer to a direct question.

5.What’s in it for me? (for adults only)

parent communication skills kid admiring cupcake.

This is the one that comes most naturally when you’re talking to kids.

In the example above, Marjory knew what her daughter wanted.

When speaking to adults, however, we often forget all about it.

We stand up and wax lyrical about our business.

Our product.

Our service.

Your child wants chocolate, so you use that as an incentive.

They want to be able to play with their toys – so you lead with that.

If you’re pitching for business, then, start with the chocolate.

“I’m sure what you want is for your business to thrive – and I’m here to help”.

Rule #5: find the ‘what’s in it for me’ and lead with that every time.

We may be dressed in fancy suits and give ourselves important job titles – but we’re all big kids.

These rules are designed to help you at home and in the Boardroom.

Time to put that into practice.

If you feel you could use some extra guidance when pitching for business, come along to our Pitch Perfect Seminar this June.

We’ll dig deeper into these Golden Rules and help you become a better communicator.


Written by Andrew McFarlan, the Managing Director of Glasgow-based media training and presentation skills firm Pink Elephant Communications.


Photo credit: uyhtJoseph.Morris via / CC BY-ND,,


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