Why do we communicate so differently with children?

Why is the way we talk to children so different from the way we talk to adults? This was a question we brought up at a workshop for parents. 


We gave them this scenario - Imagine you are rushing to go out for a wedding. Your mother or maybe mother in law is not ready and is delaying the family. What would you say to her? 

These are some of the responses we got - Amma, it’s getting late can we go? Can I help you? We need to leave now. Are you ready? 

And then we asked the group - What if it was your child who was delaying the family? What would most parents say? These were the responses- “Come on, hurry up. You always do this. Why can’t you be ready on time. You are so slow.”

So, why is it that though the situation is exactly the same we would we be so respectful in speaking to an elder person or a friend, but we think it’s OK to scold, command and name call when it comes to our children? 


This question had the group thinking and these are some of the reasons which emerged: 

  • We talk to children like this because this is what we have seen all our lives.

  • We are conditioned to think that only adults need to be respected and not children

  • We believe that children don't know anything and must be scolded and instructed in order to learn 

  • We know that our children love us unconditionally and will come back to us even when we have spoken harshly to them 

  • We are aware that as adults we hold power and are in a superior position, so they have to listen. 

  • We own the child. They have do as we say and learn to obey.

  • Society will not judge us if we are harsh or rude to a child. 


The group sat in silence thinking about all these reasons.

Do they make sense? 

Do we believe what we are doing is right simply because it is something that everyone does? 

Does this kind of communication form the foundation for a meaningful and respectful relationship between adult and child? 


The group admitted that if we are spoken to the way we talk to our children, we would never want to cooperate or listen to the person who spoke to us this way. If that is the case, no wonder we face so much resistance and noncooperation from our children. The most common complaint parents have is- “They don't seem to listen to a single word I say, and it gets worse as they grow older!” 

It is true that children have a lot to learn and they need our guidance and mentoring to grow. And wouldn't it be beautiful to see what emerges in the child when we honour them and treat them with the respect they deserve. Children learn what they live with. Imagine the environment created in our homes when parent and child relate to each other with mutual respect. It may sound idealistic, but it will truly be the case because that is the only way of relating that they have even known. 


Author: Kesang Menezes is a certified parent educator with Parenting Matters, an organization which empowers parents to build deeper connection in families.