Talking with Kids–Are They Children or Goats?

February 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Communication, Parenting

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talking with kids 2I was on the radio in Trinidad, talking about “talking with kids,” when an indignant listener called in. “I keep hearing you talking about kids…they are not goats, they are children. If you call them kids, you are thinking of them as animals. If you call them children, maybe they will act like children and not animals,” he stated. Now, I’m paraphrasing, and yet his words brought up a very important point. I was so glad he called in. And here’s why…

First of all, he alerted me to the fact that I was insulting some of my listeners by using a term that had a very different meaning for them. He was referring to the word ‘kid’ defined as a baby goat.  I was using the same word with a whole different definition.  In this case, it may be cultural in nature, since the caller was from Trinidad. However, that highlighted the importance of knowing your listener. When talking with kids (and about kids) my use of the term is one of endearment and affection. I call all my patients, “my kids.” To me, ‘kids’ is a less formal term than children and conveys a sense of closeness. But to my caller, the term was not endearing at all. In fact, it was highly offensive. I was grateful for his call, because I was able to clear the air. I would not want him to just stop listening to the radio show and think poorly of me and my message.

Second of all, while the caller was making a specific point, his message had global significance. In any situation, it’s crucial when communicating with others, and particularly when talking with kids, that there be understanding. Otherwise, miscommunication occurs, feelings get hurt, attitudes develop and what started out to be a well-meaning conversation ends up being the cause of animosity and distance.

When Talking with Kids

When talking with kids, I find that parents have a tendency to use big words that kids don’t understand. When this occurs, I ask the child if she knows what that word means; most of the time she shakes her head ‘no.’ This makes parents realize that they are not always understood and gives them the opportunity to be clear about their communication. It also gives me an opportunity to encourage kids to ask if they don’t understand something that is being said to them. And, to help parents be mindful to keep their vocabulary on their child’s level. In this way, miscommunication can be avoided.

Thanks again to my Trinidad radio caller for inspiring this blog. He’s right. Kids are not goats. They are wonderful, amazing, unique and incredibly special beings. And so when talking with kids, it’s important that you use words they will understand, encourage them to ask if they don’t understand something and to check in with them to make sure they are hearing your message in the spirit in which you meant it to be heard.

Enjoy your kids!

In what ways do you make sure that your children understand what you are saying? What do you think of the term ‘kids?’ Is it endearing or offensive?

Please feel free to leave a comment about “Talking with Kids” in the box below.


12 Responses to “Talking with Kids–Are They Children or Goats?”
  1. Parenting Matters says:

    Its all about communicating the right way! i agree that if we are not understood the way we mean it ..there is only mis communication.

    With my children i sometimes ask them to repeat what they think i said. when they say it in their own words i’m surprised sometimes how they are able to pick up things we may have not articulated but show through our body language or tone of our voice! they are truly intelligent little people.

    i definitely prefer calling them is a slangish and very casual.

  2. Dr. Vicki Panaccione says:

    Thank you for your response. You are absolutely correct! Children pick up our non-verbal cues, even more than they tune into our words. Did you know that communication is only 7% the actual words you say, and the other 93% is all about non-verbal messaging, such as tone, intonation, body language and so forth. That’s why it is so important that our non-verbal messages match our words. Behavior communicates far more than our words! Enjoy your kids! (That’s my motto!)

  3. Catherine says:

    I love the word kids. I understand that in a professional or cultural environment, using the word ‘children’ may be more appropriate, but on the emotional level, kids is just so endearing and tends to make me smile bigger.

  4. Dr. Vicki Panaccione says:

    I totally agree! My motto: Enjoy your kids!

  5. Gerald C. "Zeke" Struve says:

    The word kids is sociologically demeaning! Period! The powers of this world have convinced you it is more endearing! Like me saying Vicki’s ditzy cause they rhyme. Or me calling you a name you don’t like just because I think it’s what I want you to be called! That would show total lack of respect! There is nothing endearing to call your children animals, anything referring to animals! Knowing that assume means making an ass out of u and me in some peoples book! Means we should assume that using the term kids is alright! Never! Where’s our manners? Or the manners of the world! No manners equals no respect!

  6. Dr. Vicki Panaccione says:

    Thank you for your comments. It’s so interesting to see how much effect words can have on individuals. It’s really a lesson in being sure that what we say is received in the manner and spirit in which it was intended. My intention has always been to show the utmost affection and respect to all the children of the world, no matter what someone chooses to call them.

  7. komrad_tombstone says:

    Oh my goodness! How politically correct our world is becoming – ridiculously so! We can’t even call kids kids anymore? The only people objecting to the term “kids” for children are the same people who have forced us to use “server” in place of waiter or waitress, “administrative professional” in place of secretary, etc… When will the madness end? I, for one, will continue to use the term “kids” when referring to children for the rest of my days – perhaps even more often, knowing how much this innocuous term infuriates others. BTW, do people hate baby goats so much that they can’t bear to have their children referred to as such? I always thought baby goats were rather cute. Keep on complaining about non-issues people! XD

  8. Annie says:

    Kid is and will always be a baby goat. People tend to change the meaning of words over time. It is highly offensive. You call your children baby goats, still you demand respect from them. I will never ever call my or other children kids; they deserve to be respected and treated as the human beings they are!

  9. Dr. Vicki Panaccione says:

    Thank you for offering your perspective. I guess it depends upon the meaning of the word as it’s used in context. That’s why it’s so important that we take the time to understand each other. If we don’t, miscommunication is often what happens and people may become insulted, or offended. The children whom I refer to as “kids” know that in my language it is used as a term of endearment.

  10. says:

    Solid article. I’m studying something like this here at University of Virginia. It’s definitely
    helpful to learn new things from fellow writers and gather ideas from
    new sources. If it’s okay, I’d definitely appreciate it if I might use some of the
    articles on your blog. And of course, I’ll offer a link to your site at on my own page. Kudos for posting.

  11. Dr. Vicki Panaccione says:

    Feel free to share my work as long as it has my byline. Glad for this inofrmation to reach as many parents as possible!


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  1. says:

    Talking with Kids–Are They Children or Goats? : Better Parenting Institute…

    I was on the radio in Trinidad, talking about “talking with kids,” when an indignant listener called in. “I keep hearing you talking about kids…they are not goats, they are children. If you call them kids, you are thinking of them as animals. If you ca…