By Drs. Sally Robinson and Keith Bly

Good communication is important in any relationship, but it's especially important for your relationship with your child. Building a communicative relationship with your child can help her develop a healthy personality, as well as good relationships with you and others.

Healthy communication helps your child:
· Know that you care for and love him.
· Realize and believe that she is important to you.
· Learn to tell you directly what he feels or needs.
· Learn to manage her feelings safely.

Here are some tips for building good communication with your child:
· Let your child know that you are interested in what he has to say.
· Pay attention by listening carefully and not interrupting when she speaks to you, and turn off the television when she wants to talk.
· Hold important conversations in private, away from other family members or visitors.
· Be specific in the behaviors that you expect of him.
· Do not stand over your child when talking to her. Get down to her level so that you don't appear intimidating.
· Do not respond to "why" with "because I said so," or other adult-sounding answers. Give your child a reason. You, of course, are the adult and should have the final say about important decisions, but explain to your child why you made those decisions so that he understands.

  • Take time to make decisions rather than automatically saying no. This will let your child know that you care about what she cares about and are at least considering what she is asking. If you decide that the answer is "no," explain why.
  • Do not use words such as "dumb," "stupid" or other put-downs.
  • Help your child develop a plan to reach a solution, even if this involves punishment.
  • Reward your child when he does well by praising him.
  • Be a good role model.

While open communication with your child is important, you should also make sure that she knows you are the one in charge. Children feel more secure when they know that the adults in their lives are in control. Children who feel that they are not treated fairly by adults may become mistrustful of authority and are more likely to develop unhealthy behaviors.

Finally, remember to show that you accept your child as he is whether or not he has done something that has upset you.
Dr. Sally Robinson is a pediatrician in the division of children's special services at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. She teaches medical students about caring for children with chronic medical conditions. Dr. Keith Bly is a hospitalist and assistant professor of pediatrics at UTMB. This column is not intended to replace the advice of a physician.

The Your Health column is written by health and medical experts at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. The column focuses on topical health issues that we believe are of interest to your readers. It is e-mailed every Tuesday. If you have any questions about the column, or would like to suggest topics, please contact John Koloen, media relations specialist, at (409) 772-8790 or email jskoloen@utmb.edu.