-=-Somewhere I read on the lists that it helps kids open up when we talk about our own thoughts about social stuff in the family and with friends. It took the spotlight off Karl completely and satisfied some of his curiosity probably.-=-
That's part of a great (and longer) post by ~Katherine elsewhere on this forum (here)
I've done this a lot, even now that my kids are older. If I see someone having a problem with a situation, rather than tell them what I think is happening, I'll more likely tell a story about a similar thing that happened to me, and what I thought about it. If they want to compare their story with mine, they can. Holly, especially loves to hear any stories of things that have happened to me in my life. Marty doesn't always like to talk about his own stuff when it's new, but I can see him thinking, while I'm talking, about how that could apply to the business of the moment.
I just got back from dinner with Marty and his girlfriend. They invited me to a restaurant. There are a great many 20 year olds with girlfriends in the world, and not many of them would say "Let's invite my mom." (And it might have been Ashlee's idea; that's cool too. She's 23 and has been reading some of what I've written in and about the SCA, an organization she and Marty are both in, and the place I met my husband Keith.)
If communications are honest and natural and easy (it might take some thought and practice and modelling) when the kids are young, it can continue to be good even when they're 22, 20 and 17 (as mine are). I've seen it, and I see it, in MANY unschooling families. I see the lack of civil, loving communication in MANY mainstream, school-dependent, traditional-rules families all around me.
Some things I've seen cause problems:
"Poodle voice": If you're cooing and gooing and sing-songing what you say to your children, you're not really talking to them. I'm not talking about goo-gooing with an 18 month old. I'm talking about speaking to a four year old as if she's a sweet-little-schnookums of an oooh-you're-just-so-PREcious miniature poodle with a jeweled collar. Some people talk to their kids that way. It's horrible.
Ignoring kids. Even parents who claim and intend to be very present and mindful will sometimes ignore and ignore a kid because they're talking to their friends. They've decided not to swat the kid or yell and say "LEAVE ME ALONE, I'm talking to my friend." But they haven't figured out what "the opposite" of that really is. Instead of signalling the friend to wait and then attending to the child, or picking the child up and holding her while she continues to talk, or playing hand-holding finger games with the child while she talks, she just pretends the kid isn't needing her. It's bad.
Speaking to a young child as though he's another adult without regard to what's too much, too long, totally over his head happens sometimes too. It's good for adults to read enough about child development to know what kids don't understand at all. Telling a one year old that it will be another hour is like asking a dog to change the radiator fluid.
Some good ideas for facilitating communication (for getting kids to talk) are here:
Here's something by Robyn Coburn, with a link to something by Danielle Conger, about dealing with younger children: