How to communicate with children effectively

What persuasive strategies do you use when trying to communicate with your child? Do you tend to frame your messages positively or negatively. Does it matter? Members of the community have expressed interest in learning more about how to effectively communicate with children. And so we interviewed an expert in this area – Hiroyuki Sasaki, PhD – who was happy to teach us a little about how parents can “frame” the content and wording of their persuasive messages so that they are more effective. Dr. Sasaki’s research focuses on the concept of regulatory fit. But what exactly is regulatory fit?

“Regulatory fit refers, in our study, to the match between message content and message wording (positive wording–promotion content; negative wording–prevention content). In general, regulatory fit enhances message persuasiveness.” — Hiroyuki Sasaki, PhD

Sasaki is an Associate Professor at Niigata Chuoh Junior College in Japan. He recently published new research with his collaborator, Yoichiro Hayashi, PhD – an Associate Professor at Keio University in Japan.

Dr. Sasaki and Dr. Hayashi surveyed 282 parents of preschool children. The parents were presented with different types of persuasive messages and were asked to choose the one they were most likely to use when communicating with their own child. For example, some parents preferred the message with the negative outcome, which said “If you don’t clean up your toys, you will lose your toys.” Other parents preferred the positively framed message, which said “If you clean up your toys, you will not lose your toys.”

So what did the data show?

The key finding is that parents tended to use positively framed messages when the objective was promotion-focused (i.e., concerned with growth and achievement). In contrast, parents tended to use negatively framed messages when the objective was prevention-focused (i.e., concerned with safety and security). Messages are more persuasive in situations like this – where there is a “match” between the message frame and the message content (i.e., positive frame with a promotion objective; negative frame with a prevention objective). A mismatched message is likely to be less effective.

In a second study, the researchers found that parents chose different message strategies based on whether they had a responsive or restrictive parenting style. Dr. Sasaki explains:

“Parents consciously and unconsciously use regulatory fit messages depending on the situation. But parents with a responsive parenting style tend to favor positively framed messages, and parents with a restrictive parenting style tend to favor negatively framed messages.” — Hiroyuki Sasaki, PhD

Want to read the full publication? It is obtained here. Unfortunately, Open Access is not yet available.



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