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My five year old son occasionally has abbrassive tones with other parents and friends.

It's hard to describe. Things like:

  • "I saaaaaaaaaid I don't want to play on the swings!" (when invited by another friend he knows to play on the swings at a playground).
  • "No, silly! I only hang out with my friend {name}!" (when asked by another classmate in his preschool if he'd like to play).

I want him to feel comfortable to make his own decisions and feel like he has a right to his independence, but I also want him to know that his tone and vocal infliction can hurt feelings; and that there's more polite/gentle ways to decline something.

It's a subtlety of human conversation and I'm not sure how to teach that to a 5 year old.

Help?

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I am not an expert on child behavior, but it's not uncommon for kids to struggle with this type of thing at that age in my experience. However, that doesn't mean there are not some things to be done to try and help guide them.

These are a few things that I did with my oldest that worked for him.

Books

Reading books that describe emotion was an excellent way to demonstrate different volume levels and tonal inflection. We could tie a store to different emotional states in a less abstract way. Typically I would read with appropriate tonal changes and then ask him to identify how I felt and repeat the phrase or word oppositely.

Visualization

We have one of the charts on this site in our home. When there were struggles of appropriately asking or communicating, we would get the chart out, reference the emotion we wanted to communicate, and practice the appropriate and silly ways to use emotions. This is also a great way to record funny videos of your kids talking oddly for later entertainment and memories.

Clarification

Most frequently, we would find that our son was experimenting with how to communicate, so we would frequently take the opportunity to ask him things like, "I am not sure I read your tone of voice right; are you angry? Allowing them in a private setting in our home to reflect on how they said something helped them think about it and change the way they say things.

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