Communication Basics: 1 Way Communication

Children in Jerusalem.

Image via Wikipedia

Good Morning,

Yesterday I talked about 2 way communication and how making conversation a priority in your house will lead to greater connections.  2 way communication is a give-and-take method where the participants take turns speaking then listening.

Today I would like to discuss 1 way communication.  When I originally thought of doing a series of blogs about communication styles, I was going to leave this out.  1 way communication is usually thought of as a military style of interaction, where one person is yelling or scolding the other person.  I admit that upon first glance, this appears to be the case.  However, further thought and analysis show there is a place for this type of communication.

1 way communication is the idea that there is no verbal response from the other person.  One person talks or gives a command.  The other person is not expected, and sometimes not allowed, to verbally respond.  There are numerous ways you may use this type of communication effectively.  I would like to show you some examples and offer some advice on how to effectively use 1 way communication.

When in Danger
Shouting at your child when there is a dangerous situation is the purest form of a 1 way conversation.  Yelling words like, “stop,” “don’t,” and “ouch,” get attention fast without the necessity for verbal confirmation.

When in Praise
The opposite of a dangerous situation is the time when you want to praise someone and you do not need them to respond.  Shouting to your child in praise at a soccer game or while playing with other kids is an example of 1 way communication.  They hear you but do not respond.  I love to see parents sending words of encouragement to their kids.  I often tell clients to take advantage of telling their child when they are doing something positive.  A quick, “great job sharing/taking your turn/using your words,” is easy and highly effective feedback for your child.  The phrase “kill them with kindness” is exactly this type of interaction.  Catch them in the act of making the right decision or doing a good deed and tell them!  “I really like it when…,” or my favorite, “thanks/good job helper/eater/painter!”  If a child gets feedback in a positive way, they will know how to act in a positive way.

When Commanding
Commanding is the middle ground between danger and praise.  It may consist of using a command to get a child to perform a requested action.  One of the first things I tell frustrated parents is to calmly use commands to keep control in tough situations.  The less opportunity your child has to talk their way out of doing what you ask, the more control you have over this and future situations.  A situational example: a friend of mine asked her toddler to wash his hands after going to the bathroom.  After she asked, he responded with, “I don’t want to,” or simply, “No.”  While trying to keep her cool, and still wanting her son to wash his hands, she should start the train of commands.  In this situation, use a calm but serious voice, look at the child, and say every few seconds, “wash your hands,” or simply, “wash hands.”  It may take one minute or 10 minutes.  Do not respond to any plea or opposition.  Keep repeating the command until he knows he cannot win.  This reinforces your position as the boss and the one in charge.  If you establish your role as “the boss” early on, later struggles will not be as dramatic or drawn-out.  Do not allow your child to have control in a discipline situation.

More communication styles and strategies to come!  I am going to dive into sign language and my feelings about teaching young children this form of communication.

How have you used 1 or 2 way communication in your family?  Have you used the command style in a discipline situation?  I would love to hear from you and tips you would share with other families.

More articles related to this topic:
Communicating Effectively with Children

How to Discipline Toddlers

Good Luck,



6 thoughts on “Communication Basics: 1 Way Communication

  1. I teach a nursery class at our church. One 3 year old seems to ignore whenever she is told to do something such as pick up after herself. She’ll laugh and giggle, rip paper up, throw crayons around (not so much any more) and ignore all commands. Often the others will pick up for her. This time I had the other children leave the toys she was playing with, they left with their parents. Her dad came to pick her up, we explained what we were doing and he left. We calmly repeated that she had to pick up before she went home. She laughed and giggled and knocked more toys off the shelves. Again I told her she must pick them up before she went home, and that she now had more to pick up. Rest of the children left with their parents. By this time she’d emptied the bottom shelves and was laying on them, giggling. Not laughing, again I repeated she must pick up so she could be home, play time was over, and basically ignored her. Suddenly she picked everything up neatly, in only a couple of minutes and informed me she had the toys put away. Now I smiled and thanked for, and she skipped out of the room, holding her dad’s hand.

    • Hi Heidi,
      Thanks for checking out the blog and for the question. Learning good habits like picking up after yourself is one that is learned at home. My guess is that this child is not required to pick up after herself at home and therefore does not feel the need to do it elsewhere. Clearly she knows how to do it, but this good behavior has not been reinforced by her parents. I am curious to know what the dad said when you told him the situation. I am glad that he was able to help you reinforce the rules of your classroom. A few ideas I have for the coming weeks are:
      1. Continue with the plan from the mentioned day, having dad leave so she can stay and pick up. I would recommend getting dad involved by explaining why she can’t go with him. I also think that because she does not do this behavior in front of the other kids, that it is for show. It is an attention seeking behavior. If the audience is taken out of the picture then she will not have the opportunity, and hopefully the desire, to “act” out. You might want to also leave the room so that she is in there by herself until she picks up her mess. This type of attention seeking is also a learned behavior and should not be reinforced with anything, positive or negative reactions. Saying, “I’ll wait out here until everything is picked up,” is a good way to calmly inform her of the plan.
      2. Start small, have her pick up 2 or 3 things to begin with and add to that each week.
      3. Start a reward system with her, for every 5 or 10 things she picks up, give her a sticker
      4. If you have extra help have a person watching her and redirect her to pick up before she moves on to other toys or activities
      5. If she becomes destructive I would get mom and dad involved. Sunday school is an added bonus to the child and a break for the parents, but if she is ripping things and being disrespectful to you or other kids she may have to stop coming to the class. I do not believe that a Sunday school teacher should have to put up with serious or habitual bad behavior.

      Thanks again for the great and difficult question. Good luck with this student. She is lucky to have you in her life because it is obvious that you really care about her. I would love to hear how things are going and if you have found a solution to the issue in the coming weeks.

      • It is a learning process. She does do it in front of the other kids, but I agree it is an attention getting thing. Now she is a kitten, arches her back, purrs etc. Not a problem until she wanted to yowl non-stop. Told her she had to be quiet and she did, after I picked her up and gave her time out on my lap, she likes my lap, but not time out, difference is being held there.
        She is doing better. We were picking up for snack time and she at first didn’t help, then she got a smile on her face and ran offer and helped the most. She is very bright, her mom has started teaching her at home although just 3. I’ve seen her write letters, read a few words from a book, (she loves book).
        She’ll do attention getting things, we tell her not to do, like when she threw a car in the air. She no longer had the right to play with the car. She wants to be in charge.
        She does better with choices, do you want to clean up and have snacks or continue playing. She also does better with routines.

  2. Such great practical advise is offered on your blog…think this is very needed today. I am a big fan of 2 way communication, but you are absolutely right that there is a time and place for 1 way communication. One of the best things we did with our 2nd child was teach her early that “Last time” was firm….no negotiation…great thing is that it is just understood now and not questioned. I am sure I’ve been spared many conflicts because this was accepted at an early age. We’ve done the same with a few other things…and sometimes I had to wait out the conflict, maybe even for several weeks…but now it’s worth it. Trying to eliminate whining or “sassy talk” is another time I use it…I refuse to dialogue with her until she changes the way she approaches me…I usually say “Try again.” and on most occasions she immediately switches gears without much ado. ( I guess that’s only temporary 1 way communication because as soon as she shows a more acceptable approach to me, I respond with 2 way conversation, but at any rate it has been very effective). Dangerous situations are also an absolute….kids need to know that sometimes there is not time for dialogue, that immediately responding to an adult is for safety (I usually express this urgency with the word NOW!)…questions and explanation can be saved for later.

    • Thank you! It is really nice to hear such generous feedback. It sounds like you are a pro at using effective communication with your children. I liked that you pointed out how 1 way commands lead to 2 way conversations when your child is ready. It is really hard to wait them out when they do not approach you appropriately and even harder when they do not respond to you appropriately. Kudos to you for teaching your children quality communication skills and testifying to how well consistency and logic pay off with kids. Thanks again for checking out the blog and I hope to hear more from you in the coming weeks.

  3. Pingback: Disciplining Your Child, Spanking vs | How To Stop Bad Behavior

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