11 Door Openers and Slammers to Conversations with Kids

how to talk to kids


“I’m in the bathroom.”

Child keeps talking, and talking…

“Can this wait?”

Remember those days when your child talked non-stop? You wondered if you’d ever get a moment of silence. But as your chatty kid has gotten older and quieter, maybe now you’re wondering if you’ve forgotten how to talk to kids.

We strain to start conversations with them, but what we say in response to them has a lot of power too. There are phrases that will open the door to conversation and phrases that kill a conversation. They are called Door Openers and Door Slammers. Here are 11 of each to use or avoid.

Door Openers

“Door openers” are open-ended questions that encourage children and teens to talk about whatever is important to them. They help establish rapport, gather information, and increase understanding. Door openers should be used frequently, though not exclusively, in conversation. When we ask kids open-ended questions, we have to be ready and willing to listen to the response.

“What do you think about ___?”

“Could you help me understand ___?”

“What have you tried before in this type of situation?”

How do you feel now about ___?”

“How do you see things changing as a result of this?”

“What do you want to do next?”

“What would happen if ___?”

“How can we ___?”

“What is that like for you?”

“Where would you like to begin?”

“What do you think?”

Door Slammers

Part of knowing how to talk to kids is knowing what not to say. Those are Door Slammers. They are surefire ways to stop conversations by making children and teens feel that you don’t care about their feelings or thoughts.

“We’ll talk about that when you need to know.”

“Don’t come to me if you mess up.”

“You don’t need to know about that.”

“You’re too young to understand.”

“That’s none of your business.”

Because I said so.

“I don’t care what your friends are doing.”

“Why are you asking me that?”

“That’s just for boys/girls.”

“You kids don’t know how good you have it.”

“I’m so tired of hearing about this same issue.”

What other door openers or slammers can you think of?

For more about conversations with kids, visit myframeworks.org. Frameworks is not‐for‐profit organization whose mission is to teach youth to manage their emotions, develop healthy relationships, and make good decisions for academic, career, and personal success.